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Mass Marketing Elder Fraud Intervention

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $988,159)

This study will be conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. The project will involve secondary analysis of USPIS investigatory data; a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the efficacy of several variations on a USPIS-mailed intervention for preventing the revictimization of older adults; and a follow-up survey to a subsample of RCT participants.

Using 20 years of USPIS investigative data collected from US fraud victims, the researchers will link addresses across three data files, each containing more than 1 million victim records, to gather information about the incidence, frequency, and patterns of repeat victimization. The researchers will also test the use of a mailed intervention in preventing mass marketing fraud revictimization. Using return address data collected from individuals who have mailed payments to an identified fraudster, victims (n>10,000) will be randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups or a control group. Treatment groups will receive either (1) an official letter from the USPIS informing them that they may have been a victim of mass marketing fraud that they should be on the lookout for subsequent fraudulent solicitations; (2) the letter described above and a fraud prevention brochure with tailored messaging that provides a call to action to prevent future fraud; or (3) the letter and brochure as described above repeated monthly throughout the five-month intervention period. For up to one year, the researchers will continue to collect return addresses from victimsÂ’ mail and will identify participants who were revictimized. Their examinations will also include a return on investment analysis.

Finally, the researchers will administer a mail survey to a random subsample of addresses from each of the three treatment groups (n=7,500) to capture reactions to the intervention; basic demographic information, including age; and experiences with other types of fraud. The demographic characteristics collected will be linked to data from the intervention experiment to provide a better understanding of the impact of the intervention on victims aged 65 or older, and the relative effectiveness of the intervention by age. Additionally, they will ask victims about experiences with mass marketing fraud and other types of frauds to reveal the extent of overlap in fraud victimization.

"Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 21, 2019