Fraud victimization and confidence in Florida’s legal authorities

Authors: Michael D. Reisig & Kristy Holtfreter

Publication: Journal of Financial Crime

Year: 2007

Focus Area: Fraud Surveys, Impact of Fraud, Consumer Behavior

Relevance: Given that legal authorities rely on victims’ reports, the low level of reporting of consumer fraud makes gauging the extent of victimization difficult, and may lead legal officials to inappropriately discount the problem.

Summary: This study explored whether consumers’ confidence in legal authorities influenced their likelihood to report incidents of fraud victimization.

Respondents were asked: “How much confidence do you have in the ability of law enforcement to respond to victimization by consumer fraud?” Responses were measured on a 4-point scale (1 = none at all, 4 = a great deal) (p. 118). The percentages of respondents for each response are as follows:

  • a great deal:  20.6%
  • quite a bit:  27.6%
  • not very much: 38.7%
  • none at all : 13.2%

Four percent of the sample of Floridians reported being victimized by consumer fraud in the preceding 12 months (2004). Those respondents who experienced consumer fraud victimization during the year prior to the interview expressed lower levels of confidence in legal authorities relative to non-victims. The “level of explained variance is fairly modest,” however, and suggests that a more complex interplay of factors is at work (p. 122).

Author Abstract: Purpose – This study seeks to identify personal characteristics that help to explain variation in consumer confidence in legal authorities’ ability to effectively deal with fraud victimization in the State of Florida.

Design/methodology/approach – The study uses cross-sectional survey data from 918 adults who participated in a telephone interview in 2004 and 2005. Univariate statistics are used to describe the distribution of the dependent variable (i.e. consumer confidence in legal authorities). Hypotheses are tested using bivariate and multivariate statistical techniques.

Findings – Results show that less than one-half of respondents (48.2 percent) report that they have

either “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence in the ability of legal authorities to respond to consumer fraud victimization. Bivariate correlations show that younger respondents, those with more formal education, recent fraud victims, and individuals inclined to take risks with their financial assets

report lower levels of confidence. These findings persist in a multivariate context.

Research limitations/implications – Because these data were collected from survey respondents living in a single state, one should exercise caution when generalizing these findings to other settings.

Practical implications – The findings can be used to target public awareness efforts and educational campaigns to consumer groups with low levels of confidence in legal authorities. Doing so may not only help bolster confidence, but also potentially increase rates of fraud victimization reporting.

Originality/value – This study extends the literature on confidence in legal authorities to the previously unexplored crime-related context of consumer fraud victimization.

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