|
|
The Suburbanite
  • Does age make people more susceptible to scams?

  • With a lifetime of experience backed up by solid values, older Americans nevertheless fall victim to an excessive amount of fraud and scams. Are you too trusting?

    • email print
  • With a lifetime of experience backed up by solid values, older Americans nevertheless fall victim to an excessive amount of fraud and scams. Are you too trusting?
    The prevalence of crime against older Americans has reached epidemic proportions, said Sandy Markwood, chief executive officer of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. From telemarketing scams to identity theft, home repair fraud to bogus lottery wins, the financial exploitation of boomers and seniors costs an estimated $3 billion yearly, a 12 percent increase from 2008.
    "Seniors are absolutely too trusting," said Tasha Carter, Florida's director of consumer services. "One out of five adults over the age of 65 has been the victim of a financial scam. Eighty percent of people over age 50 have been fraud victims," Carter said.
    Seniors grew up in a more innocent time.
    "They were raised to be polite and trusting. A handshake agreement sealed a deal, and you took a person at their word. Today, the world is a different place," said Carter, who runs Operation SAFE (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) workshops in her state.
    Seniors are targeted by scammers because they are more likely to have a considerable savings account and good credit, Carter said.
    "Seniors control 70 percent of the nation's wealth, which is the reason they are targeted," she said.
    Scientific explanation?
    It's not just a matter of trust, though. Science is involved, too.
    A study from the University of California Los Angeles suggests that age-related changes in the brain may increase seniors' vulnerability to fraud. The study found that older people have a harder time than younger people detecting what is commonly perceived as suspicious or untrustworthy facial expressions and body language. The study found that the part of the brain that assesses trust, the anterior insula, may dissipate with age.
    In the study, older adults (average age 68) and younger adults (average age 23) looked at 30 photographs of faces and rated them on how trustworthy and approachable they seemed. The faces were intentionally selected to look trustworthy, neutral or untrustworthy.
    Both groups reacted similarly to the trustworthy and neutral faces. But, younger adults reacted strongly to the untrustworthy faces, while the older adults did not. The older adults saw these faces as more trustworthy and more approachable than the younger adults.
    So how can you stop from becoming the victim of crime? Like Nancy Reagan said: "Just say ‘no!'"
    "I want seniors to know it's OK to not be polite. Don't be afraid to say ‘no' and hang up on someone. Too often seniors don't want to be rude, and they get taken advantage of," said Carter, who offered the following tips:
    If a telemarketer calls, say "no, thanks" and hang up without waiting for a response.