New Study Shows Seniors May Be More Susceptible to Scams


The idea of a cynical elderly man or woman doubting everything that comes their way may just be less common than stereotypes would have us believe, according to two recent psychological studies.

A study done released earlier this year, conducted by Professor Shelley Taylor of the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that the anterior insula, the part of the brain responsible for our intuition or “gut instincts” has less activities in seniors. This makes it hard for seniors to properly process scams or misleading information.

The Study
In the study, 119 residents aged 55 to 84 viewed pictures of trustworthy faces and then people with shifty gazes, false smiles or facial hair. Then these same photos were shown to staff members and students ages 20 to 42.

Both seniors and younger participants were able to spot the neutral or trustworthy faces accurately. But the seniors did not accurately identify the people who looked untrustworthy. When the same study was conducted while participants were monitored by an MRI machine, researchers noted a lack of activity in the anterior insula of the senior participants.
The study supports data published by the University of Iowa in 2012.

What Can Seniors Due to Avoid Scam Artists?
We recently covered several of the popular scams con artists use to separate seniors from their retirement savings. Merely being aware of these scams can help.

Seniors should try to have a family member or friend they can trust along with them on appointments to see lawyers, investment professionals or financial counselors. Younger loved ones may pick up on facial cues or other signals seniors will miss.

There are some guidelines seniors and their trusted loved ones should follow to avoid scams.

Don’t Got At Things Alone
Seniors may not feel that intuition telling them something’s wrong. Lawyers have convinced seniors to give them power-of-attorney or make them the executor of their will, even if the senior has living relatives who can fulfill the duties of taking care of the senior’s estate. Seniors should not sign anything without having a friend or family member they’ve known for years, who has proven their trustworthiness in a number of situations, read the documents and help the senior make the right decision.

Be Cautious About Pleas for Help
Another popular scam targeting seniors involves a stranger calling or, even more frequently, texting, instant messaging or reaching out through Facebook, and asking for money because they are in what sounds like a desperate situation. As hard as it may be, seniors should not help anyone with money if they can’t see them face-to-face and gain a real understanding of their needs. They should not give credit card numbers out to anyone, even those claiming to be family or close friends, over the phone or online.

Check Stories
If a close friend or family member asks for financial assistance, it can be very tempting to help out. After all, these are loved ones who mean no harm and have run into tough times, and may have even helped the senior in the past.

If a loved one asks for help, check their story with others in the family. Is there a way to help without offering money directly? Seniors paying bills online or over the phone for close relatives should not let the company save their information on file.

Staying Safe In the Senior Years
Even though people over 55 may have less in the way of instincts than those younger, they still have years of experience and life knowledge to draw from. Seniors shouldn’t worry that there is someone lurking around every corner to steal their retirement savings, but they should approach financial situations with caution and the support of a trusted younger relative to compensate for the inability to detect con artists as easily.

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