Jason S. Miyares
Attorney General of Virginia

Fraud Statistics

According to the 2000 Census, one out of every seven Americans is a senior citizen. While those aged 60 and over make up 15 percent of the national population, a full 30 percent of all cases of fraud are committed against them. That's twice the normal rate. 

The population of Virginians age 60 and over will grow from 14.7 percent of the total population in 1990 to almost 25 percent by 2025 when there will be more than 2 million Virginians in this age group.  (Virginia Department for the Aging)

The number of Virginians age 85 and older will increase dramatically between 1990 and 2025 – five times faster than the state's total population growth. (Virginia Department for the Aging

Virginia's older population is growing more racially and ethnically diverse, reflecting the growing racial and cultural diversity of the Commonwealth and the nation. (Virginia Department for the Aging)

A single senior victimization can frighten a community of seniors.  They abandon patterns of visiting friends, going to worship, shopping, and other social interaction.  The United States Department of Justice states that among victims of non-lethal violence, persons 65 or older were about 6 times more likely than younger persons to never go out at night. 

Most studies and polls on the concerns of older people reveal that the fear of crime ranks as their first or second cause of worry. This concern can be healthy if it leads to positive steps to avoid being victimized. At the same time, unjustified fear can become a very negative influence that mars one's enjoyment of life. We see this negative influence when older people avoid leaving their homes even for a quick trip to the mailbox or refusing to participate in community activities for fear of being attacked.

Combating Misconceptions About the Incidence of Violent Crime

  • With a few exceptions, such as purse snatching, older people are not victimized more than the rest of the population.

  • The crimes we fear most are crimes of violence, but those are least likely to occur. For example, despite widespread fear, rape almost never happens to women over the age of 65. In fact, only one percent of all known rape victims are over the age of 50.

  • The most frequently committed crimes against the elderly are property crimes, such as burglary, and they usually  occur while the victim is away.

  • Most of the crimes committed against seniors do not involve violence at all. Elderly people are far more likely to become victims of consumer fraud by dishonest telemarketers or door-to-door salesmen. While  older Americans comprise only 15 percent of the national population, they make up 30 percent of consumer fraud victims.

The Elderly Crime Victim - High Risk Behavior

Older people typically suffer the least victimization but express the highest level of fear. However, the elderly are sometimes at increased risk of victimization because:

  • They may be less aware of their surroundings, and may neither hear nor see approaching or present danger.

  • They may not be able to identify the offender.

  • They may not be able to read or understand the terms of a fraudulent contract.

  • They have slower reaction times and may not have the physical ability to defend themselves or their property if attacked.

  • They may live in central cities that are generally high crime areas with less than adequate police protection, and, as their neighborhoods change, they may be removed from the mainstream.

  • They may have to rely on public transportation that may take them through areas they would otherwise avoid.

  • Often, no one is present to protect their home or property while he or she is away, even for a short period.

  • Many older people pursue daily activities, such as grocery buying and check cashing, with regularity.

  • Elderly males typically are at greater risk for violent crime and  robbery than elderly females.

  • Elderly females typically are at greater risk for personal larceny with contact, such as purse snatching, than elderly males