Monday, July 12, 2021
Last month the New York Times ran an article on How Deceptive Campaign Fund-Raising Ensnares Older People.
The dirty little secret of online political fund-raising is that the most aggressive and pernicious practices that campaigns use to raise money are especially likely to ensnare unsuspecting older people, according to interviews with digital strategists and an examination of federal donation and refund data.
Older Americans are critical campaign contributors, both online and offline. More than half of all the online contributions processed by [one company] in the last cycle, 56 percent, came from people who listed their occupation as “retired,” federal records show.
Digital operatives in both parties deploy an array of manipulative tactics that can deceive donors of all age groups: faux bill notices and official-looking correspondence; bogus offers to match donations and hidden links to unsubscribe; and prechecked boxes that automatically repeat donations, which are widely seen as the most egregious scheme.
But some groups appear to specifically target older internet users, blasting out messages with subject lines like “Social Security” that have particular resonance for older people, and spending disproportionately on ads for an older audience. In many cases, the most unscrupulous tactics of direct mail have simply been rebooted for the digital age — with ruthless new precision.
The article notes that age is not reported on federal filings, so the depth of this occurring is unclear. However, the NYT looked at refund data correlating with voter rolls for California and reports "that the average age of donors who received refunds was almost 66 on [a republican company] and nearly 65 on ... the equivalent Democratic processing site... Even more revealing: More than four times as much money was refunded to donors who are 70 and older than to adults under the age of 50 — for both Republicans and Democrats." The issue is not limited to political campaigns the article notes. "There is an entire initiative at the Justice Department devoted to elder abuse, and the F.B.I.’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported nearly $1 billion in losses for those 60 and older in 2020." One expert quoted in the article noted "older people face a double whammy online when combining their generational lack of familiarity with technology and age-related cognitive declines."
The article delves into some reasons for such an impact and examines some of the email messages. It's an interesting read.