Block letters spelling fraud, with magnifying glass

Bartenders, hairdressers and other daily figures in people’s lives, such as clergy, should be recruited into the fight against chronic fraud, new research suggests.

A report published by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation), along with AARP and Heart+Mind Strategies, aims to examine the underlying factors that result in repeated victimization by fraudsters.

While the factors involved with one-off frauds and how to disrupt them have been extensively studied, the problem of chronic fraud victims remains less understood, according to the report.

To that end, it noted, researchers developed a behavioural model for understanding the phenomenon of repeated abuse, which includes “situational factors that facilitate chronic vulnerability combined with a trigger, motivation, and an ability to engage with the scammer” — and they sought to devise tactics to disrupt these situations.

While combating “chronic susceptibility in repeat victims […] is likely the best way to stop fraudulent engagement, it is also the most variant and challenging factor,” the report found.

However, the report also said that it’s possible to disrupt fraud even once the scam has started.

“Managing other factors, like triggers and abilities — which often occur once exposure and engagement has begun — is a much more scalable way to mitigate the success of attempted fraud,” the report said.

To disrupt the triggers for repeat fraud, the researchers recommended trying to deliver anti-fraud education “at the grassroots level, in the fabric of [the victim’s] daily life.”

“For instance, partnering with people such as clergy, counselors, and bartenders, or locations such as hair salons and churches, is needed to provide the right message and tools to potential or repeat victims,” the report said.

The problem with traditional fraud awareness campaigns is that chronic victims often don’t consider themselves to be victims, and so don’t seek fraud prevention information, and aren’t receptive to “victim-focused messaging,” the research found.

Other potential tactics proposed in the report include creating supports to address the motivation of victims for engaging with the fraudsters. Another possibility is to disrupt the ability of victims to follow through with sending money to fraudsters.

“Some of the most effective intervention points could be at the locations where the financial transactions occur,” the research said.

“Preventing chronic fraud victimization is an especially challenging task in the absence of interventions and individualized support. Responding once engagement with the fraud is activated, however, is possible, and a critical way to mitigate chronic victimization and its devastating impact,” the report said.

“This research provides a new lens through which to identify key intervention strategies that could disrupt the cycle of chronic fraud victimization at one or more points along the path to victimization,” said Gerri Walsh, president of the FINRA Foundation, in a release.

“We hope it stimulates additional attention to the need for effective interventions that may reduce chronic fraud victimization,” she added.