A new report has surprisingly found that older shoppers are more likely to commit online fraud than younger ones.
According to fraud protection platform Ravelin, 41 percent of consumers who confessed to fraudulent acts online last year were over 45 years old, while only 17 percent were between 18 and 24 years old.
Ravelin notes that as online shopping becomes more popular, fraudsters have more and more opportunities to exploit the system through “friendly fraud” or “first-party fraud.”
Additionally, only 18 percent of respondents who admitted to fraud “strongly believe” that what they are doing is wrong, even if their activities violate a company’s terms and conditions.
Not young: According to fraud protection platform Ravelin, 41 percent of consumers who confessed to fraudulent activity online last year were over 45 years old
Many even display a “Robin Hood” mentality and steal from supermarkets and major retail brands, believing that such companies can “easily absorb the losses.”
Reasons cited for violating the law by middle-aged consumers included higher costs of living, the ability to send children to college and the need to support aging parents.
Frequent buyers are also more likely to be perpetrators: 62 percent of those who cheated more than four times said they had bought something online at least eleven times in the past year.
The findings were released ahead of Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, when consumer fraud tends to increase.
Martin Sweeney, chief executive of Ravelin, remarked: “We are living in difficult times so it is perhaps not surprising that some consumers are being lured into fraudulent behavior, but the fact that so many otherwise respectable middle-aged people are involved seems quite significant.”‘
Of survey respondents who admitted to consumer fraud, 7 percent said they had engaged in “false returns” by either returning an item other than what they purchased or sometimes returning an empty box.
Meanwhile, 5 percent said they had used someone else’s card details to buy items online without their permission – also known as second-party payment fraud.
A much more common type of fraud is voucher abuse, where someone uses an offer more often than allowed on goods or sets up multiple online accounts to take advantage of offers.
A quarter also take advantage of “high spender” offers, including free shipping and free returns, by buying more than they actually want and then returning unneeded items.
Economic pressure: Consumer fraudsters in the UK, France and Germany said the most common “trigger” for dishonest behavior was the cost of living crisis
In recent years, more and more retailers have started charging customers to return items due to the high cost of processing returns, which can have a significant impact on their profit margins.
Clothing brands have been particularly keen to charge returns fees, including Zara owner H&M, outdoor specialist Mountain Warehouse and Boohoo.
Ravelin pointed out that Topshop owner ASOS began cracking down on promotions when it emerged that 6 percent of customers were costing the company more than £100 million through the overuse of returns and promotions.
The anti-fraud group acknowledged that people who take advantage of high-spending offers are not committing a crime, but said: “These consumers are trying to exploit the system to their advantage.”
Many scammers get scam tips and tricks from celebrities and influencers on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, especially young people.
Ravelin’s report included 6,278 adults in the UK, France and Germany who had purchased something digitally in the last six months.
40 percent of them admitted to committing online consumer fraud in the past year, with another 36 percent considering doing so in the future.
French shoppers were more likely to commit consumer fraud than Brits
Although inflation and poverty rates are higher in the UK, the report found that French shoppers were more likely to engage in consumer fraud than Brits – 47 percent in the former group compared to 39 percent in the latter group.
However, in both countries and in Germany, the cost of living crisis was the most common “trigger” for dishonest behavior.
Other important triggers were the corona pandemic, layoffs, the birth of children and starting school or university.
Most consumer fraudsters earned less than £/€100 from their actions, while only 13 percent reported taking home at least £/€500.
However, a majority also believe their behavior was not fraudulent, and 45 percent believe it is acceptable to exploit loopholes, gaps in return policies and other terms and conditions.
Ravelin noted, “Consumers see an opportunity to circumvent the rules and take advantage of them, rather than intentional intent – for example, when a retailer automatically refunds a return before inspecting it or accidentally delivers the wrong items.”
“For brands, reducing opportunities for fraud means reducing fraud – by preventing policy abuse, fine-tuning terms and conditions, and taking a more diligent approach to fraud prevention.”
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