Tags: scam | senior | mental | declines

Mental Declines Make Seniors Scam Targets

Monday, 20 August 2012 03:28 PM

Seniors are often the targets of scam artists making too-good-to-be-true offers. But new research suggests the reason isn’t because older Americans are more trusting or gullible than others.
University of Iowa scientists have found age-related declines in cognitive mental functions – tied to a specific area of the brain that has deteriorated or is damaged – may make some older folks especially prone to being duped by fraudulent schemes.
The findings, reported in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, are based on an analysis of elderly patients with various forms of brain damage. Researchers determined injury or deterioration in the region of the brain that controls belief and doubt – called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex – can make some people more vulnerable to fraudulent claims.
"The current study provides the first direct evidence beyond anecdotal reports that damage to the [ventromedial prefrontal cortex] increases credulity,” said researchers. “Indeed, this specific deficit may explain why highly intelligent patients can fall victim to seemingly obvious fraud schemes."
The Iowa scientists noted a 2009 study conducted for the National Institute of Justice concluded nearly 12 percent of Americans 60 and older had been exploited financially by a family member or a stranger. Another report issued last year by MetLife Inc. estimated the annual loss by victims of elder financial abuse at $2.9 billion.
The UI study is based on tests involving several dozen brain-damaged patients who were shown deliberately misleading advertisements and asked how much they believed or doubted the ads. The results were compared to those of patients with no brain damage. The researchers found that the brain-damaged patients were twice as likely to believe a given ad, even when given disclaimer information pointing out it was misleading. They were more likely to buy the item advertised, regardless of whether misleading information had been corrected.
"Behaviorally, they fail the test to the greatest extent," says Natalie Denburg, assistant professor in neurology who devised the ad tests. "They believe the ads the most, and they demonstrate the highest purchase intention. Taken together, it makes them the most vulnerable to being deceived."

© HealthDay

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Age-related cognitive declines may make some older folks prone to being duped by fraudulent schemes.
Monday, 20 August 2012 03:28 PM
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