Society’s growing reliance on technology to transfer private information has created more opportunities for identity thieves to access personal data. Research on identity theft, specifically among older adults, is virtually nonexistent, yet research on victims of all ages indicates a positive association between older age and more severe economic and psychological consequences. Using data on victims ages 65 and older from the 2016 and 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey Identity Theft Supplement, this study examines how socioeconomic status, demographic characteristics, and incident-specific factors relate to how much money is stolen, the likelihood of experiencing out-of-pocket costs, emotional distress, and reporting identity theft. Older adults with incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) were between two and three times as likely to suffer out-of-pocket costs relative to those at more than 500 percent FPL. Female victims were 74 percent more likely to feel distressed by the incident, as were those who suffered out-of-pocket costs and had more money stolen. Experiencing subsequent problems with friends and family members following identity theft was significantly associated with emotional distress but negatively associated with reporting to law enforcement. Results indicate that emotional distress and reporting decisions are driven largely by the financial severity of the incident and the duration of misuse, and less by socioeconomic and race characteristics. Greater advocacy and psychological support are needed to help vulnerable older adults recover from identity crimes, particularly those who experience more severe or prolonged incidents of identity misuse.
WI21-11: Consequences and Response to Identity Theft Victimization among Older Americans