Mixed-methods Analysis of Consumer Fraud Reports of the Social Security Impostor Scam

Published: 2021
Project ID: UM21-Q1


Despite the growing prevalence of Social Security impostor scams, there has been no academic research on this subtype of fraud. One problem is that general sample surveys do not ask respondents about the individual subtypes of government impostor scams they may have experienced, thereby conflating the prevalence of Social Security scams with IRS scams and others. For fraud victim research in general, a core limitation is that many individuals deny victimization and others simply do not know they were deceived. Due to a lack of empirical research on this problem, important questions about Social Security scams remain unanswered, such as who complies, how criminals change their story over time, and what persuasion tactics are most common and effective at eliciting compliance. In-depth research is needed to resolve significant gaps in knowledge to inform effective consumer education campaigns and other fraud prevention efforts. This project will yield insights directly relevant to SSA, such as what age groups are most susceptible, the manipulation tactics impostors use to deceive targets, the reasons victims provide to explain why they complied, the possible effectiveness of consumer fraud awareness messaging and law enforcement actions, and other actionable findings.


Marguerite DeLiema