While consumers of all ages are susceptible to deceitful business practices and scams, older adults may be especially vulnerable to certain types of consumer scams, including identity theft, telemarketing fraud, home repair fraud, or investment scams. Preventing and prosecuting these crimes depends largely on the information and education the public receives about who the criminals are, how they work, and how people can avoid them and report them to the appropriate authorities.
The purpose of this report is to describe the consumer experience of Washingtonians age 18 and older and the prevalence of victimization, as well as the support for legislation and what areas of consumer fraud they view as priority issues for the state.
This September 2003 survey revealed that:
- Twenty-six percent of respondents indicated they had felt swindled or deceived by someone selling something or delivering a service.
- As a result of a negative consumer experience, 73% told others about the issue in order to prevent a reoccurrence, 69% stopped using the product or service, and 47% requested a refund or replacement; 20% contacted the Better Business Bureau, and 5% filed a police report.
- Seventy-two percent of respondents support a statewide Do-Not-Call law.
- Identity theft, investment scams, and charity fraud were selected as the top three priority consumer-fraud issues in the state.
- Almost three-quarters (74%) indicated that the penalty or punishment for consumer-fraud scams should be increased for someone who knowingly targets those less able to defend themselves.
A total of 801 Washington State residents aged 18 and older completed telephone interviews during September 10-26, 2003. In order to ensure a representative sample, four geographic regions were identified by county and used in a post-stratification procedure: Puget Sound/Tri-County Region, Western Region, Central Region, and East Region. For more information, contact Jennifer H. Sauer at 202-434-6207. (20 pages)