Can You Hear Me Now? Telemarketing Fraud Victimization and Lifestyles

Authors: Christina Policastro, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology at Georgia Southern University; Brian Payne, Office of Academic Affairs at Old Dominion University

Publication: American Journal of Criminal Justice

Year: 2014

Focus Area: 2000 to Present, Aging, Victim Profiling

Relevance: Telemarketing fraud is a type of mass-marketing fraud that often targets elderly people. Lifestyles theories suggest that individual lifestyles shape victimization risk by influencing how often an individual is exposed to risky situations and offenders, such as being at home when the telephone rings. The routine activities theory states that in order for a crime to occur, three factors must be present: a motivated offender, a susceptible target, and the absence of capable guardians.

Summary: This paper tests the hypothesis that these theories explain why the elderly are more vulnerable to telemarketing fraud.

  • Sex and neighborhood environment were the only two variables significantly associated with telemarketing fraud targeting. Significantly more males than females reported that they were targeted.
  • Similar to the model predicting targeting, neighborhood environment significantly predicted victimization such that individuals living in less safe neighborhoods were more likely to be victimized.
  • The findings suggest neither telemarketing fraud targeting nor victimization is tied to age. Routine activity theory and lifestyle theory variables do not appear to predict targeting or victimization by fraudulent telemarketing.

Author Abstract: Researchers have used lifestyle theory to delineate patterns surrounding various forms of victimization. Much of this research focuses on conventional crimes and demonstrates a seemingly consistent pattern in terms of victim age: older victim’s lifestyles reduce their risk for conventional victimization, but may increase their risk for other forms of victimization. Using lifestyle/routine activity theory as a guide, this study explores whether the lifestyles and activities of older persons are tied to their risk of being targeted for telemarketing fraud. Our findings suggest that victimization risk for telemarketing fraud does not vary across the life-course, and that lifestyles of older persons are not tied to telemarketing fraud victimization. Factors tied to victimization include neighborhood disorder and being employed part-time. Implications are provided.

Link to full article.