According to the FBI, elder fraud cost a staggering $1.7 billion in 2021. Scammers often target older adults – those age 60 and older – because they believe they have substantial savings and are not tech-savvy. However, it’s not just affluent senior citizens at risk; older adults with low income are also vulnerable to financial scams and credit fraud that can wreak havoc on their lives.
Now, new data suggests that as we age, we become more vulnerable to all types of fraud and scams. But what’s the reason behind this? In this article, we delve into the complex intersection of financial scams and senior citizens, as well as the science behind elder fraud. As our aging population grows, addressing these challenges is not only a matter of elder justice, but also a financial and public policy issue.
The perfect target
Researchers are investigating a condition known as “age-associated financial vulnerability,” which affects older adults who remain cognitively sharp and physically healthy but may fall prey to credit and elder fraud by strangers or even family members.
Dr. Mark Lachs of Weill-Cornell Medicine in New York, and his colleagues, coined this phrase. Says Lachs, “We are learning that there are changes in the aging brain, even in the absence of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or other neurodegenerative illnesses, that may render older adults vulnerable to financial exploitation.”
However, this research encompasses more than cognitive decline. Experts are keenly interested in how the aging process, including physical changes in the brain and declining sight and hearing, might impact financial decision-making. For some, a new pattern of monetary missteps could signal the onset of larger cognitive issues, often serving as an early warning sign.
For example, our ability to detect suspicious situations may wane with age. Elderly individuals might only see the upside in seemingly attractive offers, or find it difficult to stand up to aggressive scammers.
But researchers emphasize senior citizens and financial scams issues extend beyond neurological changes. According to Marti DeLiema, a research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity, “it also involves all of these other social and environmental factors like social isolation, like cultural factors… [such as] older adults having more wealth compared to younger generations.”
For example, older individuals are more likely to live alone, which makes them more susceptible in the absence of a supportive community network. Those social factors also explain why people of all ages can be an easy target. These victims have enough capacity and are unfortunately often overlooked by those that can help them.
Is it too late?
Financial crimes against older adults can be devastating, often leaving victims with no way to earn back their losses. But it’s not too late. If you or someone you love has been the victim of elder fraud or a financial scam, there are actions you can take.
You can contact local law enforcement in your area, or the FBI, which provides a national elder fraud hotline . Also, credit bureaus such as Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, or the SSA, can limit damage done by fraudsters who steal your personal information, such as your social security number.
Most importantly, you have the right to fight back. The Law Offices of Robert F. Brennan APC is an award-winning elder financial abuse attorney. Since 1991, we have successfully litigated thousands of cases involving consumer protection issues, including senior citizens and financial scams. With our firm on your side, you have a fighting chance.