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Are autistic individuals vulnerable to financial exploitation? – by Dr Ru Ying Cai

15 January 2020

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Researchers around the world have begun to take an interest in the financial experiences of autistic individuals. This is an important area of research as being able to manage your own finances is critical for living an independent life.

Researchers at the Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) have launched a new study to find out more about the financial experiences, including financial vulnerability, financial wellbeing, and financial independence of autistic people. In this post, lead researcher, Dr Ru Ying Cai explains more about autistic people and financial exploitation.

What the research tells us

There are concerns that autistic people may be more likely to be financially exploited. In a recent study conducted by researchers from the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge1, 426 autistic adults were asked whether or not they have been tricked or pressured into giving someone money or possessions. Almost half of these autistic adults responded yes to this question! This was much higher than the 20% of non-autistic adults who responded yes to the same question.

What might be the cause of autistic adults being more vulnerable to financial exploitation? Autistic individuals are often very honest people who can tend to take people at face value. These are admirable traits and can be real strengths in some contexts. However, with unscrupulous individuals, these traits could lead to the autistic person at risk of being financially exploited.

Experiences of autistic adults

In a pilot study that was conducted in Australia in 20172, we found that many autistic adults living in Australia have been financial exploited or scammed. Here’s a couple of quotes from the autistic individuals who shared their experiences:

Autistic individual 1: If you’re [autistic], you’ve got the same problems as everybody else, the scammers. [We’re] not immune to scammers as well. You sign up for something, but you keep on getting it. That should be banned. That’s got nothing to do with autism … We’re just more vulnerable to it than most. There should be more regulation to help people with scams [and deal] with people trying to scam them.

Autistic Individual 2: Really, we are more susceptible because we’re more naïve in a lot of things. We can’t believe that somebody’s out to get me, someone’s out to steal from me. We can’t comprehend the notion that someone would lie to me, steal from me.

Take part in our study

If you are an autistic adult, we would love to hear about your financial experiences!

We would also like to hear from parents or carers of autistic adults to gather your perspectives of your adult child’s financial experiences.

References

  1. Griffiths, S., Allison, C., Kenny, R., Holt, R., Smith, P., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2018). The Vulnerability Experiences Quotient (VEQ): A Study of Vulnerability, Mental Health and Life Satisfaction in Autistic Adults. Autism Research, 12(10), 1516-1528. doi: 10.1002/aur.2162. Epub
  2. Russell, R., Cai, R. Y., & Hall, G. (2017). Financial wellbeing of autistic individuals.

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