Predict consumer vulnerability to prevent fraud

By studying characteristics and habits of fraud victims and criminals, recent articles suggest why people become fraud targets and how popular beliefs about elderly victims may be wrong--important information for health insurers.

Marketing scams in the federal exchanges brought consumer fraud to the center of national attention. With much of the public stumped by the complexities of buying health insurance, phony navigators have sold bogus insurance, charged illegal sign-up fees and obtained victims' financial information for ill use, as FierceHealthPayer: Anti-Fraud reported.

A federal judge recently denied a request by the news magazine Inside Edition for a list of Jordan Belfort's 1,300 fraud victims, the New York Times reported. Belfort, a former stockbroker known as the wolf of Wall Street, was convicted of securities fraud and money laundering. Public harm could result from releasing names of his victims, the article noted, because for fraud perpetrators no tool is as valuable as "the sucker list."

"It's pretty well known in the fraud world that the best list to get is the list of people who have already been taken," AARP fraud expert Doug Shadel told The Times. Prior victims have shown receptiveness to cons, Shadel explained, making them easy prey for subsequent fraud by perpetrators on the prowl.

Fraud vulnerability may stem from "a powerful and irrational desire to believe in a special relationship with another person who wants to help you," according to an article in Psychology Today. When people deny fraud-related hurts to spare themselves the pain of having been gullible, they're apt to "establish a pattern of vulnerability to fraud" and get scammed repeatedly, the article stated.

One widely held belief is that seniors are bilked more often than younger people. Brain scans on older adults have shown lowered response to untrustworthiness, according to a Time Goes By blog post. Yet there's conflicting evidence on senior fraud vulnerability. Canadian researchers studying age differences and consumer fraud, for instance, found that "psychologists may underestimate the influence in everyday life of possible protective factors associated with old age, including increased experience," the post noted.

For more:
- here's the New York Times article
- read the Psychology Today article
- see the Time Goes By blog post