Elder Fraud and Financial Exploitation: Application of Routine Activity Theory

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71 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: Elder fnancial exploitation, committed by individuals in positions of trust, and elder fraud, committed by predatory strangers, are two forms of fnancial victimization that target vulnerable older adults. This study analyzes differences between fraud and fnancial exploitation victims and tests routine activity theory as a contextual model for victimization. Routine activity theory predicts that criminal opportunities arise when a motivated offender and suitable target meet in the absence of capable guardians. Research Design and Methods: Fifty-three fnancial exploitation and fraud cases were sampled from an elder abuse forensic center. Data include law enforcement and caseworker investigation reports, victim medical records, perpetrator demographic information, and forensic assessments of victim health and cognitive functioning. Results: Fraud and fnancial exploitation victims performed poorly on tests of cognitive functioning and fnancial decision making administered by a forensic neuropsychologist following the allegations. Based on retrospective record review, there were few signifcant differences in physical health and cognitive functioning at the time victims' assets were taken, although their social contexts were different. Signifcantly more fraud victims were childless compared with fnancial exploitation victims. Fraud perpetrators took advantage of elders when they had no trustworthy friends or relatives to safeguard their assets. Discussion and Implications: Findings support an adapted routine activity theory as a contextual model for fnancial victimization. Fraud most often occurred when a vulnerable elder was solicited by a fnancial predator in the absence of capable guardians. Prevention efforts should focus on reducing social isolation to enhance protection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-718
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 13 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute on Aging (grant number T32AG000037).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved.


  • Adult protective services
  • Elder abuse forensic center
  • Forensic neuropsychologist
  • Retrospective review
  • Victimization


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