Contextual and Social Predictors of Scam Susceptibility and Fraud Victimization
Financial fraud targeting older adults is on the rise, with annual losses totaling in the billions of dollars. Prior cross-sectional and qualitative studies have reported that negative life events and social factors, such as poor psychological well-being and loneliness, are significant correlates of fraud, yet there is little research using longitudinal data to show that these social factors and life events precede (versus follow) victimization experiences, and no studies that examine the impact of modifying social variables on the risk of fraud and reducing scam susceptibility. In this study, we use repeated measures from the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP) decision making substudy to assess how negative life events and trajectories in social support, well-being, and loneliness affect susceptibility to scams and fraud victimization over the course of the study. Experiencing negative life events was not associated with the risk of self-reported fraud victimization, although negative life events were statistically significantly associated with greater scam susceptibility in unadjusted models. Using a causal inference analysis that simulates the impact of a social support intervention on the risk of fraud over time revealed that higher consistent social support increases the average probability of reporting fraud victimization over the study, contrary to study hypotheses. Although the magnitude of effects are small, consistent interventions that maximize psychological well-being and minimize loneliness significantly reduce average scam susceptibility. Effects are stronger for older adults who are divorced, widowed, or never married relative to those who are married or partnered.
- Negative life events were not associated with self-reported fraud victimization, although negative life events were statistically significantly associated with greater scam susceptibility in unadjusted models.
- Higher levels of consistent social support increased the average probability of reporting fraud victimization.
- Although clinical effects are small, consistently high levels of psychological well-being and consistently low levels of loneliness significantly reduce average scam susceptibility.
- The effects of psychosocial interventions on reducing scam susceptibility are stronger for older adults who are divorced, widowed, or never married relative to older adults who are married or partnered.
Sur, Aparajita, Marguerite DeLiema, and Ethan Brown. 2021. “Contextual and Social Predictors of Scam Susceptibility and Fraud Victimization.” Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center (MRDRC) Working Paper; MRDRC WP 2021-429. https://mrdrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/papers/pdf/wp429.pdf
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Paper IDWP 2021-429