A Profile of Financial Fraud Victims

Based on online behaviors and life experiences, 34 million internet users may be at increased risk of becoming victims of online fraud.

Based on online behaviors and life experiences, 34 million internet users may be at increased risk of becoming victims of online fraud, according to a new report.

The AARP study compares victims to non-victims to find what puts a person at risk of being scammed and found victims had an average of 7 key risk factors. Of the 11,000 adults surveyed, 19% demonstrated at least 7 key risk factors.

According to the results, a quarter of victims clicked on pop-up ads (compared to 10% of non-victims), 27% of victims opened an email from an unknown person (compared to 17% of non-victims), and 18% of victims (compared to 8% of non-victims) signed up for free trial offers. The respondents admitted to doing all these things in the past 7 days.

However, it wasn’t just online behaviors that put people at risk—there were also certain life experiences that correlated. Victims were more likely to say they “often or sometimes feel isolated,” they lost their job, or they had suffered a “negative change in financial status” in the past 2 years.

“Just as a weakened immune system lowers your resistance to disease, negative life events lower your resistance to fraud,” AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said in a statement. “That’s when doing something risky online could put you right where a scammer wants you.”

Meanwhile, another survey found that financial abuse and exploitation of older Americans is on the rise, according to 71% of care managers. According to the survey from the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM), the top 5 most common types of financial abuse were:

• Theft of money or property by family/friend/neighbor (79%)

• Theft of money or property by caretaker/in-home care provider (75%)

• Investment/securities schemes through the mail or by phone (52%)

• Home repair scams (45%)

• Getting a senior to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception (43%)

There are also 2 emerging schemes being seen more frequently, according to professional care managers. The first consists of someone posing as a new friend of the senior, often pretending to have romantic interests and tricking the senior into purchasing cash cards to send payment to supposedly receive lottery winnings. The second scheme consists of “caregivers” marrying seniors and exploiting them financially.

“Financial abuse of seniors is a growing problem,” NAPGCM President Emily Saltz said in a statement. “Families with older parents need to know the warning signs of this all too common and often hidden form of elder abuse.”