Researchers take on elder financial fraud

Thomas Blomberg
Thomas Blomberg, dean of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Elder financial fraud is a pervasive problem in our society and Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice is taking steps to combat the issue.

The college is partnering with Merrill Lynch and Seniors vs. Crime to conduct research on elder financial fraud in The Villages, one of the largest retirement communities in the nation.

In 2011, it was reported that $2.9 billion was exploited from elder victims — a 12 percent increase from 2008. The fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is 65 and older, so the occurrence and impact of elder financial fraud will likely continue to escalate.

Despite these alarming trends, there is little research on the facts, prevention and policies related to elder financial fraud.

“What we know from official statistics is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Thomas Blomberg, dean of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and principal investigator of The Villages study. “We need to have better firsthand knowledge of how extensive the problem of elder financial fraud is in order to develop needed policies and practices that can effectively reduce this growing problem.”

As a part of the research project, FSU will host two town hall meetings in The Villages Monday, Nov. 9, and Tuesday, Nov. 10. The purpose of the meetings will be two-fold: to educate residents about financial fraud happening in their community and to further the college’s study of elder financial exploitation.

The meetings will educate residents about financial fraud occurring in The Villages, as well as how to report it and prevention tips from Seniors vs. Crime and the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

After the meeting, the FSU researchers will perform brief surveys on financial fraud. Interested residents also will be asked to participate in upcoming focus groups and interviews.

FSU will use the information from the initial surveys, focus groups and interviews to gain insight into elder financial fraud. The study will focus on identifying major risks and protective factors associated with elder financial fraud victimization.

For more information, contact George Pesta with the FSU Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research at (850) 645-6101.