Mar 4, 2021
First of Its Kind Study Identifies Drivers of Chronic Fraud Victimization
AARP, FINRA Investor Education Foundation and Heart+Mind Strategies identify key intervention opportunities

WASHINGTON—AARP, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation) and Heart+Mind Strategies today released Addressing the Challenge of Chronic Fraud Victimization, a study that identifies evidence-based ways to help repeat victims of financial fraud and their families. The study, published in recognition of National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), used a behavior model to help illuminate factors that may contribute to repeat or chronic victimization by financial fraud schemes.

“The drivers behind chronic fraud victimization have remained a mystery, so this study is an important step to being able to stop the cycle,” said Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention programs and leader of the AARP Fraud Watch Network. “Chronic fraud can give targets and their families a sense of helplessness. By gaining a better understanding of the target’s drivers, we are hopeful there can be more meaningful interventions to disrupt and end the cycle.”

In 2020, the FINRA Foundation and the AARP Fraud Watch Network engaged Heart+Mind Strategies to deploy a four-phased study of chronic fraud victimization to uncover evidence-based concepts for effective interventions. The study’s goal was to generate new thinking on how to best support the individuals and families repeatedly targeted and victimized by financial scams and fraud. Researchers reviewed existing literature, interviewed subject matter experts, chronic victims of financial fraud, and family members of victims, and held two expert roundtables as a part of the study.

“This research provides a new lens through which to identify key intervention strategies that could disrupt the cycle of chronic fraud victimization at one or more points along the path to victimization,” said Gerri Walsh, President of the FINRA Foundation. “We hope it stimulates additional attention to the need for effective interventions that may reduce chronic fraud victimization.”

The study found that chronic fraud victimization may be a consequence of chronic susceptibility due to certain situational factors that disrupt judgement and derail good intentions. One of the most effective ways to reduce chronic fraud victimization may be to reduce chronic susceptibility, the study’s authors said. However, chronic susceptibility can be challenging to identify and address. The authors offer ideas for managing other factors, such as triggers that elicit an emotional response and the ability to access funds, which may be more scalable ways to reduce fraud victimization rates or counteract the negative consequences associated with victimization.

The study identified the importance of fraud education but acknowledged that many victims or would-be victims do not consider themselves as such, and consequently may not seek out or absorb anti-fraud messaging. So, creating more in-the-moment education and intervention opportunities could be more effective. For instance, partnering with community members like clergy and counselors, or locations such as hair salons and churches, could provide more powerful messages and tools for potential or repeat victims.

The study concluded that preventing chronic fraud victimization is a challenging task but individualized support can help. However, even after a person has engaged with the fraud, intervention is possible – and, in fact, is a critical way to mitigate chronic fraud victimization and its impact.

Anyone who suspects a fraud or has a loved one experiencing chronic fraud can call the free AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information. The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all that equips consumers with up-to-date knowledge to spot and avoid scams, and connects those targeted by scams with our fraud helpline specialists, who provide support and guidance on what to do next. The Fraud Watch Network also advocates at the federal, state and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and enforce laws.

Investors with questions or concerns surrounding their brokerage accounts and investments can also contact the FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors toll free at 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET. FINRA staff can help investors with concerns about potential fraud or unsuitable or excessive trading; answer questions about account statements or basic investment concepts, and assist beneficiaries who are having trouble locating or transferring their deceased parents' assets.

The FINRA Foundation and AARP have a long history of collaboration on research and programs that explore and combat financial fraud. Working together, the Foundation and the fraud fighter call centers operated by the AARP Fraud Watch Network have conducted outreach to more than 1.7 million consumers, empowering them to spot, avoid and report financial fraud.

NCPW, held February 28 through March 6, is a time to help people understand their consumer rights and make well-informed decisions about money.

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About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.orgwww.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP@AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.

About FINRA Investor Education Foundation

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation supports innovative research and educational projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools to make sound financial decisions throughout life. For more information about FINRA Foundation initiatives, visit www.finrafoundation.org.

For further information: Emily James, AARP, ejames@aarp.org, 202-615-9315 and Angelita Williams, FINRA, angelita.williams@finra.org, 202-728-8988

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