Stanford Launches Elder Fraud Research Center, Identifies Unconventional Victims

Stanford University has launched an interdisciplinary research center focused on financial fraud targeted toward seniors. Thus far, its experts say that the victims may not be who you would expect.

“The factors that go into making people vulnerable are not well understood…Even people who did everything right are finding themselves in situations where those savings are being stolen,” Professor Laura Carstensen, founding director of the Research Center on the Prevention of Financial Fraud, told the Stanford Daily. Cartensen noted that most victims are over 50 years old.

The victims are far from helpless, the report notes. They are often financially savvy and have trusted relationships with financial advisers and institutions.


“We assumed that the people who were defrauded were less financially literate—wouldn’t you think so?” asked Doug Shadel, another expert at the new center. “It’s not the case at all.”  The targets often include doctors, lawyers and presidents of companies, he told the Stanford Report.

The center is part of Stanford’s Center on Longevity and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, and through interviews with hundreds of fraud victims and a dozen con artists, has identified known trends about victims and those who defraud them. The victims are largely open to sales approaches in general, and are often in a heightened emotional state. They are hesitant to admit they have been targeted, often making it difficult for their families to intervene.

“They’re exposing themselves to the marketplace,” Shadel said in the report.


Written by Elizabeth Ecker