Study finds older adults particularly vulnerable to scams

A larger number of older adults than currently recognized are vulnerable to fraud and scams, including those adults without cognitive impairment, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In the study, the researchers created an imposter scam involving a fake government agency and tested it on a group of older individuals who had agreed to take part in research on the chronic conditions of aging. More than 30% of adults in the test group engaged with the scam in some manner, with phone calls being the most effective way of getting them to engage.

Most studies on financial fraud and scam victimization among older adults rely almost exclusively on self-reported data, but the high percentage of people who engaged in the imposter scam experiment shows that those studies may not capture the full extent of the problem, according to the researchers. They also noted that psychological and other behavioral measures played no real role in determining which individuals would engage with the scam, although individuals with the highest cognition and financial literacy showed more skepticism when they engaged.

The American Bankers Association Foundation offers banks free resources to help educate older Americans about fraud, scams and other forms of financial exploitation through its Safe Banking for Seniors program.