Personal Fraud Victims and Their Official Responses to Victimization

Authors: Kent R. Kerley & Heith Copes

Publication:  Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

Year: 2002

Relevance:  Given that so few victims of fraud report their victimization, understanding who reports (and why) may contribute to a better understanding of the extent of fraud within law enforcement, while also improving prevention, program, and policy efforts in the face of this often “invisible” crime. Figures were also used to analyze the factors associated with victimization.

Summary: Using survey data from a random sample of 400 adult Tennessee residents, implications were drawn regarding both victim profiles and
reporting behavior:

  • Victim profile: “victims were most likely to be between the ages of 18 and 34, have some college to a college degree, and make between $15,000 and $50,000 per year” (p. 30). They were also most likely to be initially victimized by a stranger (87%).
    • For the personal frauds included in this study, the elderly were significantly less likely to be victimized than individuals in all other age categories.
  • Reporting behavior: “fraud victims have a low overall reporting rate (23 percent) and are reluctant to report to police (10 percent for one-time victims, 5 percent for repeat victims)” (p. 31).
    • The only variable that consistently predicted official reporting was the amount lost – more money lost, the more likely the victim was to report.

Author Abstract: The bulk of the research on predatory crime focuses on characteristics, profiles, and patterns of offenders. This information is important, but from the perspective of police agencies, information about the victims of predatory crimes, including victims of white-collar predatory crimes, and how they officially respond to victimization is also important. Using survey data from a random sample of 400 residents of Knox County, Tennessee, we investigated the characteristics of victims of thirteen different types of fraud. After dividing individuals into categories of non-victims, one-time victims, and repeat victims, we develop profiles of personal fraud victims by examining differences in key demographic and offense characteristics. Next, we investigate the official reporting behavior of victims. The results are instructive for police agencies as they highlight common characteristics of fraud victims and suggest methods for encouraging fraud victims to report their victimization to police.

Full Source