Why Scammers Target the Elderly

Posted by Meghan Orner on October 12, 2015

Why Scammers Target the Elderly

As unfortunate as it is, with the rise in technology comes a rise in financial scams. Scams can be found practically anywhere – on the phone, in the mail and even online – resulting in millions of people losing billions of dollars to scammers every year. What is even more saddening about this statistic is that the elderly are common victims of scams, leading many to question why scammers target the elderly.

We sought to answer that exact question, and below are the top six reasons why scammers target the elderly along with tips for protecting yourself from these scams.

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Cognitive Decline

No matter who we are, we all experience cognitive decline as we age. We lose our abilities to remember, concentrate and solve problems quickly, and these qualities make any older adult a prime target for scammers. Scammers believe that they can easily manipulate the elderly into giving their personal information, money, or anything else the scammer may desire.

Keeping your mind sharp can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim, so try these brain-stimulating activities that promote a healthy aging brain!

Isolation

Coupled with cognitive decline, isolation and loneliness are perhaps two of the biggest reasons why scammers target the elderly. Scammers target those who are isolated because they are less likely to have a trusted loved one nearby who would help them realize it is a scam, and as horrible as it is, scammers target recent widows by reading obituaries.

To combat loneliness, many older adults turn to dating sites, but unfortunately, scammers can even be found there. Approximately $82 million has been lost to scammers on dating sites, which is why exercising caution when talking to anyone online is crucial.

Trusting Nature

While our cognitive capabilities decline as we age, our sense of happiness and trust actually increases. Although this can be very helpful in combating loneliness and promoting an active and social lifestyle, it also puts seniors at risk of scammers. In fact, a 2012 study conducted by UCLA found that seniors cannot determine how trustworthy a person is as well as those who are in their 20s.  

Here’s a good rule of thumb if you believe you’ve been confronted by a scammer: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your own instinct first rather than what the person you’re talking to is telling you.

Monetary Resources

Simply put, seniors typically have more money than younger generations. The average senior does not provide care or financial support for their children, allowing them to have large amounts of money in retirement savings – money that scammers want.

Always monitor your back statements to make sure that nothing is being taken from your account without your knowledge.

Unfamiliar with Technology

Even though more seniors are using the internet, it can be hard for them to notice the typical warning signs of an online scam.

Seek help from a tech-savvy grandchild, neighbor or friend who will be able to explain what to look out for – especially if you’re new to the internet.

Least Likely to Report a Scam

When compared to other age groups, seniors are the least likely to report that they have been a victim of a scam. Many chose not to report it because they are confused, embarrassed, or afraid that their loved ones will think that they cannot live independently. However, this is simply not true. Scammers are extremely clever, and being a victim of a scam is nothing to be ashamed of.  

If you have been a victim of a scam, the worst thing you can do is to stay silent! Report the scam to your local law enforcement office and STOPFRAUD.GOV, and share your experience with others.

We may think that we would never be targeted, but the sad reality is that we all must be cautious to protect ourselves from scams.  


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