WI21-09: Epidemiologic Study of the Correlates of Scam Susceptibility, Financial Exploitation, and Fraud in Older Adults



Older adults are highly vulnerable to financial exploitation, with approximately 20% of individuals >65 victimized. Elder fraud results in losses of >$35 billion annually, and this figure will undoubtedly rise with the increasingly sophisticated targeting of individuals receiving Social Security distributions. In addition to the economic costs of elder exploitation, the public health costs are tremendous. Exploitation leads to anxiety, depression, social isolation, hospitalization, and early mortality. Indeed, federal agencies including the CDC have prioritized elder fraud as a major public health problem in need of immediate and intense focus.

To date, the reasons why older adults are vulnerable to scams and exploitation remain unclear. The proposed study will leverage highly unique data available via an ongoing epidemiologic study of aging to address critical gaps in knowledge regarding the factors associated with scam susceptibility, financial exploitation and fraud among older adults without dementia. Of note, this study also will include a focus on deceptive marketing and fraudulent offerings including government impersonation schemes such as those targeted toward Social Security (OASI) beneficiaries. Findings will provide much needed knowledge regarding the factors associated with elder vulnerability and exploitation and will facilitate efforts to reduce the associated economic and public health challenges. Findings will be essential for the development of effective public policy and intervention efforts to prevent elder exploitation.

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