Understanding the effects of compromise and misuse of personal details on older people

Judy Watson, David Lacey, Don Kerr, Paul Salmon, Natassia Goode


An increasing number of older adults are being affected by scams that can lead to the compromise and misuse of their personal details. Previous research has investigated factors that increase the likelihood of falling victim to identity compromise and misuse; less is known about the non-financial impacts that result from the event or about the factors that influence these impacts. The aims of this study are to describe the identity compromise events experienced by older adults, and explore the non-financial impacts (i.e. behavioural, physiological, emotional and psychological), and external factors that might influence these impacts. The study used data collected by an identity compromise and misuse support service in Australia. The manner of compromise/misuse, the type and number of credentials involved, and the organisations/agencies that were contacted for advice following the event, were recorded. It was found that most events had an online element, were detected by the victim, and involved multiple identity credentials. Participants experienced a variety of behavioural, physiological, emotional and/or psychological impacts. More impacts were experienced where the event had an online element, where more credentials were compromised and where more points of contact were made to reach comprehensive advice. Misuse was not a contributory factor to the impacts experienced. Implications for further research are discussed.


older adults; identity compromise and misuse; non-financial impacts; identity credentials; online

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3127/ajis.v23i0.1721

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ISSN: Online: 1326-2238 Hard copy: 1449-8618
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