SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

August 20, 2012

Why seniors may be more vulnerable to scams

It's no secret that senior citizens are a con artist's favorite target. They seem more trusting and more likely to fall for a scammer's pitch.

But why, exactly? Conventional wisdom holds that older people are more trusting and, because they are from a generation that came of age at a time when people were more honest, they don't question a scammer's “too good to be true” promises.

But maybe there's something more at work here. Researchers at the University of Iowa believe it all has to do with deteriorating brain function, a product of advancing years.

They say they’ve pinpointed the precise location in the human brain, called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), that controls belief and doubt, and that is what explains why some of us are more gullible than others.

Direct evidence

“The current study provides the first direct evidence beyond anecdotal reports that damage to the vmPFC increases credulity. Indeed, this specific deficit may explain why highly intelligent vmPFC patients can fall victim to seemingly obvious fraud schemes,” the researchers wrote in the paper published in a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Statistics tend to support their conclusions. A study conducted for the National Institute of Justice in 2009 concluded that nearly 12 percent of people 60 and older had been exploited financially by a family member or a stranger. And a report last year by insurer MetLife Inc. estimated the annual loss by victims of elder financial abuse at $2.9 billion.

In 2006, ConsumerAffairs reported the case of an elderly Kansas man who lost $300,000 to the Canadian lottery scam over a four-year period. In an interview, his daughter said repeated intervention by family members and the police did little good, that her father could not conceive that someone would lie to him.  

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Business

AP Video
Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best AP Review: Amazon Fire Adds Spark to Smartphones All Aboard! LIRR Strike Averted Microsoft to Cut Up to 18,000 Jobs Time Warner Rejects Murdoch's Takeover Bid Yellen Says Economy Still Needs Fed Support Cleveland Expects Economic Boom From Lebron Justice Dept. Fines Citigroup $7 Billion Justice Dept. Fines Citigroup $7 Billion Downside of Low Mortgage Rates? Less Selling Cupcake Shop Crumbs Shuttering All Its Stores San Francisco Prepares for Soda Battle Dow Breaks Record 17,000 GM Crash Compensation Could Top $1 Billion GM Won't Limit Crash Compensation Funds Justices Rule for Broadcasters in Aereo Fight
NDN Video
Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy
Comments Trcker