Key behaviors raise fraud risks: study

Wed May 25, 2011 10:32am EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Millions of older Americans are defrauded by con artists and many do not report the crime, but avoiding key activities and taking certain precautions can safeguard against scams, new research shows.

A study by the AARP Foundation, the charity of the powerful lobbying group for older Americans, showed that only about a quarter of fraud victims over 50 years old reported the crime.

And the older the victims are, the less likely they were to admit being duped.

The study also identified activities -- opening and reading all junk mail, attending free lunch seminars, entering draws to win a free prize and inviting salespeople into the home -- that raise the risks of being a victim of investment cons, lottery scams, loan schemes and bogus business deals.

"Our research has shown that avoiding some of these common sales situations and taking a few simple preventative actions can go a long way in protecting our pocketbooks." said Doug Shadel, a co-author of the AARP study.

About 30 million Americans, or 13.2 percent of the adult population, are victims of fraud, according to data released in 2007 by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

In the year-long AARP study of 2,232 people, which was conducted by Woelfel Research Inc. and included 723 victims of fraud, 65 percent of those who had been conned had participated in at least two of the activities. Older fraud victims were twice as likely as other older Americans to have engaged in all four of the activities.

People who are defrauded also fit certain profiles, according to the research. Married, well-educated, high earning older men were more likely to be victims of investment fraud, while single older men and women with lower incomes and education levels tended to fall prey to lottery scams.   Continued...

<p>Seniors relax by the sea in a file photo. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>