Fraud and Criminal Justice

Background

Fraud is a serious crime, and older adults are often targeted. They lose at least $3 billion to fraudsters annually. In 2019, over half of fraud complaints came from adults age 50 and older, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which tracks complaints. Older adults also reported higher average dollar losses. The FTC found that, compared with younger consumers, those age 60 and older were:

  • nearly five times more likely to lose money to tech support scams,
  • three times more likely to report losses to imposter fraud (when someone impersonates a friend or family member to extract money),
  • twice as likely to report prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams.

Older consumers reported losing money most often to phone and online scams. They most often paid with wire transfers and gift cards.

Criminal justice: America’s aging population presents unique challenges for the criminal justice system. These include:

  • detecting and prosecuting crimes that result from abuse and neglect (see also Elder Abuse Prevention),
  • deterring frauds and scams aimed at vulnerable older people, and
  • fostering partnerships to make communities safer for older adults.

FRAUD AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Policy

FRAUD AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Policy

Fraud Prevention

The federal government should provide state and local agencies greater assistance for fraud prevention and deterrence. This should include programs designed to deter fraud by detecting and prosecuting crimes (see also Scams and fraud).

Violent crime

Policymakers should develop and fund programs to make communities safer for residents living in a variety of settings. Those who live alone or are isolated should receive particular attention.

Policymakers should eliminate gaps in, and strengthen enforcement of, federal and state gun laws.

Policymakers should also improve training for law enforcement personnel and adult protective services providers, particularly on working with older adults.

Any gaps relating to gun possession by juveniles, convicted domestic abusers, and those under domestic violence restraining orders should be eliminated. Training on working with older survivors of violence should include techniques to assist those who are cognitively impaired or in poor physical health, as well as the prevention of crimes most frequently committed against this segment of the population

The federal government should assist states and local agencies in improving data collection and coordination. They should increase older people’s participation in crime prevention programs. Law enforcement officials should be educated about the unique needs of older adults—especially people from racial and ethnic groups that have experienced discrimination and people with disabilities—for protection and support after they experience crime.

States should develop assistance programs for survivors of serious crimes. Programs to serve survivors may be implemented by bills of rights, laws, or constitutional amendments that require certain minimum services and rights for all survivors of serious crime.

Programs should provide Services should include, as appropriate:

  • counseling referrals and related services;
  • information about how the criminal justice system works;
  • court accompaniment and support during trials for those severely traumatized by the crime;
  • transportation to court and other proceedings for older adult survivors and witnesses, including those with disabilities, as required by their particular circumstances;
  • training of hospital staff in collecting and preserving crime evidence and in the special needs of vulnerable survivors;
  • intercession with employers and creditors, if required;
  • information on major case developments and decisions at all critical proceedings, as well as information on the offender’s status from arrest through release (including the minimum time that those convicted must serve if sentenced to incarceration);
  • adequate notice of court appearance dates, scheduling changes, and continuances;
  • protections for survivors who are threatened or subjected to intimidation; and
  • prompt return of property when no longer needed as evidence.

States should establish and improve information systems for crime survivors.

States should require consideration of victim impact statements at critical proceedings. They should be allowed at hearings related to bail, charging, sentencing, and parole. These proceedings should consider the consequences of violent crimes.

States should sufficiently fund state victim compensation programs. They should provide expedited compensation in emergencies. The crime survivor’s age and physical health should be taken into consideration in deciding on payments.