Why smart (older) people get scammed and how

According to researchers at UCLA, seniors’ vulnerability to fraud may be in part related to neurological changes that come with aging. When older people look at photos of suspicious-looking individuals, they have trouble noticing insincere smiles and other visual cues that younger people observe.

This may be due to cognitive changes in a part of the brain called the anterior insula, or simply because older people grew up in simpler times and are more trusting. Both of these issues make for generally happier seniors, but the downside is that they are frequently victims of fraud.

Experts advise that a savvy senior must be aware that they might not be able to trust their own instincts. Many times, seniors do not want their family or friends to know that they have been scammed for fear that others will think they cannot manage their own affairs and live independently.

Therefore, seniors do not report that they have been taken in scams, and although the numbers are very high when it comes to reported scams perpetrated on elders, they are in reality very much higher.

Americans lose an estimated $13 billion a year to fraud and most of the victims are between the ages of 80 and 89.

The internet is a hotbed of scams. The format is can be the old “Nigerian email” scam, wherein someone claims to be an agent of a wealthy person who has died and left a fortune.

Unfortunately the fortune can’t be claimed within whatever country the scam artist claims it is in, so he will split the fortune with you, if you just send along your bank account info or some money to pay the taxes, bribes or whatever the deal is. Old as this scam is, variations of it still are enticing people to part with their hard-earned cash or their personal information.

Then there is the perfect boyfriend-girlfriend scam, who has fallen madly in love with you over the Internet. They want to come and meet you and live happily ever after, except they need money for a plane ticket. Of course the money goes and the person never shows.

The Craigslist scam works because you have listed something on Craigslist to sell and some con man really wants it. They ask for your address, and they send you a check immediately, including enough to cover shipping. Just send the item. So you get the check, run it to the bank, send the item and then the check bounces. Your item is gone to a fake delivery point.

Other scam emails are called “phishing” emails. This type of scam looks as though it has come from your bank or Amazon, or some other account, even perhaps looks like a government account that you may have, and it alerts you to a problem with the account.

You are instructed to click on a link to fix the problem, which leads you to a fake bank or business website. When you log in your information, your identity can be stolen. Phishing results in millions of people getting scammed every year. Do not click on any link in an email that you have a doubt about. Go to the company’s real web page and check out your account there, rather than inside an email. These types of messages have misspellings, or weird grammatical sentence structure.

What you can do is hover your cursor over “the click here” link or over the email address itself (don’t click), and you will discover the origin of the email and it won’t be where it purports to be. This type of scam is also appearing on phones via text messaging. A variation of this is that your computer is infected with a virus and you need to click on a link to fix it or send money to have it fixed.

The “mugged on vacation” or “help, I’m in a foreign jail” scam either comes as an email or a phone call from a friend or family member who needs you to send them money so they can get out of the jam they’re in. A simple way to defuse the scam is to ask a question that only the real person they claim to be could answer. Don’t ask for a date of birth or something that a scam artist could have access to, but instead ask about an event.

The pre-approved credit card scam or the “you just won the lottery” scam or “you could get this fabulous work from home job” scam or “you won an overseas sweepstakes” scam (that you never entered) requires people to pay a set-up fee, or the annual fee up front to claim a prize, card or job. Well, you pay and then nothing happens.

There are many people apparently engaged full-time in trying to scam others out of their hard-earned money. The emotional devastation suffered by those who are scammed is intense as well as the financial upset that it presents. When in doubt, don’t click on anything without checking first.

When answering the phone and someone claims to need personal information, tell them that you will call the company back on the official line. Don’t use the number they provide. Anything that appears too good to be true usually is. Check your sources and be careful with your information. It is not just older people who are the victims of fraud; some very smart and savvy younger people have fallen for the con man’s smooth approaches, too.

When you yourself play by the rules, it is difficult to imagine that others can be deceitful to your face. Good Health is about protecting the mental and emotional well-being as well as the physical. Aloha!


Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior-change specialist. She can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, (808) 212-8119 cell/text and www.janerileyfitness.com.


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