There’s a disturbing relationship between fraud and seniors. For whatever reason, the two seem to go hand-in-hand. Older adults are often the target of scammers. And when they fall victim to fraud, many seniors aren’t reporting it to local authorities.
One study reported by NOLO estimates that only 1 in 25 fraud-related crimes is reported to law enforcement or government agencies. And, since fraudsters do indeed target seniors, this under-reporting makes helping older adults a real challenge.
So why aren’t seniors reporting these crimes?
Here are four possibilities.
1. Seniors Think Being a Victim of Fraud is a Sign of Getting Old
One sure way to make someone feel old is to point out to them how they’ve behaved in a way that’s associated with getting older.
So it makes a lot of sense that anyone who’s been scammed might want to just hide the whole experience under a rug so as few people know about it as possible.
But seniors needn’t feel this way. Perpetrators of fraud do indeed target older adults even though logically, it doesn’t make since. The older you get, the wiser you become. That should result in increased insight into all the bad ways of the human criminal mind, right? It should lead to heightened skepticism, right?
Actually, it’s the opposite. Fraudsters know what they’re doing. A 2012 study on senior fraud found that for reasons related to neurons in the brain, seniors display excessive trust. That makes them especially vulnerable to fraud.
Whatever the reason, it’s just plain embarrassing to get scammed out of your money at a time in life when you’re supposed to have learned so many lessons, hence the under-reporting.
2. Older Adults Aren’t Sure How to Report Fraud
Part of the problem with reporting fraud is that very often, it’s done through confusing online channels. Try typing “report fraud” into a search engine and see what you get! In a wicked twist of irony, some of the top results might even be fraud websites.
Although this is a problem for everyone at any age, seniors by definition are least likely to be savvy when it comes to internet behavior. The internet can be a confusing place. This is especially true for older adults simply because they haven’t been using it their entire lives like younger generations have. That can make navigating the various fraud-reporting channels overwhelming.
3. Seniors Fear Being Perceived as Incapable
It shouldn’t be this way, but very often when seniors are victims of crimes, their well-meaning loved ones see it as a sign that they should take over. Everyone values independence and autonomy, so anything that threatens these states of being is, of course, to be avoided. Take away the notion of independent senior living and suddenly fraud is impacting quality of life to an even greater extent.
As a result, some seniors may even fail to report fraud to their own families, out of fear that they’ll begin to lose their own decision-making powers when it comes to finances and spending.
4. Many Victims Just Want to Move On
Let’s face it: being a victim is no fun. Sometimes the thought of prolonging the experience with the process of reporting fraud just doesn’t seem worth it.
But it can be very much worth it. For example, Medicare is so eager to encourage seniors to come forward with reports of fraud, they’ll even pay cash: up to $1000 if certain conditions are met.
We encourage anyone who’s been a victim of senior fraud to click here to learn more and to read where to report it. You won’t necessarily receive cash, but you might end up helping prevent future victims.