Using mixed methods to identify the characteristics of older fraud victims

TitleUsing mixed methods to identify the characteristics of older fraud victims
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDeLiema, M
AdvisorWilber, KH
Number of Pages132
Date Published2015
UniversityUniversity of Southern California
CityLos Angeles, CA
Thesis TypePh.D.
Accession Number1705799725
KeywordsConsumption and Savings, Employment and Labor Force, Gerontology, Health Conditions and Status, Healthcare, Methodology, Public Policy

In 2011, 7.3% of U.S. adults ages 65-74 and 6.5% of adults ages 75 and older were victims of financial fraud (Anderson, 2013). In addition to the billions of dollars lost annually to scams, indirect societal costs include paying for the care and support of elders who lost their life savings, and the expense of investigating cases and prosecuting offenders. One of the first steps in stopping fraud is determining who is most vulnerable, yet the research literature on risk factors presents a conflicting narrative. Some research studies and consumer protection agencies report that older adults are the most vulnerable age group due to greater social isolation and impairments in financial decision-making however, national prevalence studies have found that elders are the least likely to experience fraud. According to the Financial Fraud Research Center (2012), research identifying the specific risk factors that make elders susceptible to fraud is important to inform policies and where to target resources. After describing the prevalence, cost, and mechanisms of fraud, this dissertation discusses multiple theoretical explanations for why older adults are vulnerable. Chapter I presents a temporospatial framework for fraud based on the routine activity theory (Cohen & Felson, 1979) and an ecological theory of elder financial exploitation (Rabiner, O'Keefe, & Brown, 2004). The adapted model proposes that targets and scam artists are nested within the broader social and political macrostructure comprised of public policy and legislation on consumer protection, prevention/education efforts to reduce fraud, fraud reporting mechanisms, and society's values, beliefs and attitudes about older adults. In the following three empirical chapters, a mixed methods approach is used to identify the demographic, socioeconomic, psychological and cognitive characteristics of older fraud victims using the nationally-representative Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and a sample of victims in Los Angeles County. Researchers have observed that different types of fraud target different socio-demographic groups (Pak & Shadel, 2011). To identify heterogeneity among the respondents who reported fraud in the HRS, Chapter III employs latent class analysis (LCA) to test the hypothesis that older victims of fraud vary in terms of their socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. Two distinct victim classes (i.e., typologies, profiles) emerged from the analysis. Based on the distribution of socioeconomic and demographic characteristics within each group, Class 1 was descriptively labeled " high-SES middle-age married adults, " and Class 2 was labeled " low-SES older widowed females ." The high-SES middle-aged married adult group was larger than the low-SES older widowed female group, suggesting that the former group of victims is more prominent in the U.S. population over age 50. High-SES middle-aged married adults had higher average levels of cognitive functioning and also experienced a higher average number of stressful life events in the past five years compared to low-SES older widowed females . Using a national sample, this analysis provides comparable results to earlier studies that identified two victim typologies using a smaller sample of older victims identified by law enforcement: "bogus prize promotion" and "investment fraud" victim (Pak & Shadel, 2011; Financial Industry Regulatory Authority; 2006). The main finding of Chapter IV is that although fraud and financial abuse victims share many of the same physiological, environmental, demographic, and psychosocial characteristics, they differ in that fraud victims have significantly higher Mini Mental State Exam scores, better mobility, and are more likely to be childless. A proposed explanation for the similarities is that exploitation has less to do with the characteristics and risk factors associated with the victim, and more to do with the people surrounding the victim (or lack thereof). In othe words, the structure of the victim's social network determines whether he or she is more likely t be a victim of fraud by strangers or financial abuse by family and friends. This analysis illuminates areas where intervention and prevention strategies may differ between each type of exploitation. This dissertation contributes to the literature in several important ways. First, it helps clarify the relationship between fraud susceptibility, age, and socioeconomic status among adults ages 50 and older in the U.S. Second, it uses prospective (pre-fraud) data on individuals to determine whether the purported risk factors for fraud--loneliness, poor cognitive functioning, stressful life events--actually do increase like likelihood of victimization later on. Third, findings from the latent class analysis support previous research using victim complaint data to categorize victims based on their SES and demographic characteristics. And fourth, the qualitative findings in this study reveal the tremendous financial cost of fraud, and also the importance of friends and family members in protecting older adults from predatory strangers. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)


Copyright - Copyright ProQuest Dissertations Publishing 2015 Last updated - 2015-08-27 First page - n/a

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Short TitleUsing mixed methods to identify the characteristics of older fraud victims
Citation Key6274