Preventing Financial Crimes against Older People for Building a Safe and Secure Community

Project: Research

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“Financial crimes against older people” are a global concern that has drawn the attention of researchers, policy makers, criminal justice practitioners, and helping professionals. In recent decades, this phenomenon has been emerging in Asia in places such as Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and it is likely to become a concern in the affluent cities of Mainland China (e.g., Shanghai) in the years to come. Although previous studies conducted in Western contexts have examined patterns of and contributing factors in financial crimes against older persons (see Carcach, Graycar & Muscat, 2001; James, 1992; James & Graycar, 2000; James, Graycar & Mayhew; Johnson, 2004; Smith, 1999; Temple, 2007), it remains uncertain about the extent and nature of this specific type of offence owing to limited accessible local statistics and whether the implications generated from this research can be applied to a Chinese community like Hong Kong. Meanwhile, in order to actualize the popular policy agenda of the Hong Kong Government favoring ‘community care’ for older people, further investigation into how to protect older persons from crime victimization is required. The proposed study is intended to address this need by enriching our understanding of financial crimes against older persons while generating new ideas for crime prevention measures based on the local context of Hong Kong.According to the Routine Activity Approach by Cohen and Felson (1979), crimes occur where there is a convergence in time and space of a minimum of three elements: a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian against crime. Under this framework, one can perceive that older persons in Hong Kong are “suitable targets” of financial crime due to their vulnerability (i.e., declining physical condition) and economic situation (i.e., possession of savings and personal property). In Hong Kong, conditions such as long working hours and the increasing trend toward nuclear-family households often prevent family members from offering capable guardianship to seniors. All of these social factors are believed to give rise to older people’s vulnerability to financial crimes including fraud and deception. This situation is likely to become salient when senior citizens are encouraged by the government to become financially self-sufficient. Under this pressure, they may find “get-rich-quick” schemes especially appealing and may thus be exposed to a higher risk of financial exploitation. It is apparent that a thorough understanding of this specific type of victimization must be established in order to develop effective policy and practice to address it.The proposed study will involve the collection of survey data from approximately 1,050 older persons and the collection of qualitative data from 50 stakeholders in crime control through focus groups over a 24-month period from January 2013 to December 2014. We will use these data for an empirical assessment of the extent and features of victimization, the self-perceived risk and fear of financial crimes among senior citizens, and the views of senior persons and stakeholders in crime control regarding the feasibility of various crime prevention initiatives. The findings, which will reflect multiple perspectives, are expected to increase the legitimacy of the policy and practice suggestions that proceed from this study. The knowledge, expertise, and research experience of the project PI and Co-Is will be complementary; this will help to facilitate project implementation while generating multiple perspectives on the problem. In addition, the PI and her collaborators have experience in conducting research related to crime prevention and older people. These factors should guarantee a high level of feasibility for project implementation.


Project number9056006
Grant typePPR
Effective start/end date1/10/1218/12/14