Recently SAFE analyzed the annual Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “Protecting Older Consumer” reports between 2017 to 2022, using a word count analysis to identify critical trends. One of the more interesting trends is that the FTC has increasingly incorporated race and ethnicity into its analysis of elder fraud.
When assessing the actual costs and trends in financial exploitation, the identity of the victim, including their race and ethnicity, matters. Older adults of color can be more susceptible to fraud for several reasons, including but not limited to a lack of access to anti-fraud tools, low financial resiliency, and sparse education on the matter. To ignore race and ethnicity is to ignore the true impact and on-the-ground reality of elder fraud.
Recognizing the importance of fraud victims’ race and ethnicity, the FTC has increasingly reported on the racial and ethnic dynamics of elder fraud. The FTC’s debut 2017-18 report utilized the language of “Black,” “Latino,” “AAPI”, and “Spanish” sparingly. In subsequent years, references to ethnic identifiers increased but notably rose within the 2020-21 and 2021-22 reports, exponentially increasing references to AAPI, Latino, and Black/African-American victims, as depicted in the chart below. In focusing on these racial and ethnic categories, the FTC managed to open up insights into how different types of fraud impact different communities. For example, Black older adults are less likely to be victims of Romance scams, according to FTC data. AAPI older adults are more likely to be victims of Government Imposters and Investment Scams, according to FTC data.
At SAFE, we commend the FTC for conducting this critical analysis, but it cannot stop there. The FTC should use these insights to adjust its enforcement practices too. In particular, the FTC should consider focusing its enforcement resources on frauds and scams that disparately affect racial and ethnic minorities, who can be among society’s most vulnerable.
Although more research is to be had, this new language has created optimism for the future visibility of the range of victims. We hope this language can make more precise predictions to complement pre-existing information. More posts will come to evaluate future FTC reporting. Stay tuned!