Senior Living Care Blog

Senior Scams May Signal Cognitive Impairment

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Jun 27, 2019 11:00:00 AM


Recent studies have shown that older adults who are less likely to detect scams may be at an increased risk of developing dementia and other issues associated with cognitive impairment.

It should be noted that seniors, in general, are less likely to identify scams, especially online or over-the-phone scams. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that over a six-year period low scam awareness was associated with a 60 percent increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.


Senior Cognitive Impairment and Scams

An older senior who may be falling victim to a senior scam over the phone due to his cognitive impairment

While scams and fraud schemes can happen and affect anyone, senior citizens should be more aware of these things for a number of reasons. For example, senior citizens are more likely than younger people to have some money in the bank, their own home, a good credit rating, and more. All of these things make them more attractive to con artists.


Moreover, senior citizens, today were raised to be polite and trusting, these are traits that con artists can use to their advantage. Similarly, elderly victims don’t often report crimes as they don’t know where exactly to report it and when a victim does report a crime they often make poor witnesses. Con artists understand that age can be a sign of cognitive decline and they will likely target older individuals for this and many other reasons.


Some examples of telemarketing scams include offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins, health care products, and vacations.


Elder fraud is a serious problem that affects millions of individuals. In fact, in March the FBI announced that after a yearlong effort, law enforcement efforts resulted in the criminal cases of more than 260 defendants who victimized more than 2 million Americans, most of whom were senior citizens. Losses from this were estimated to have exceeded more than $700 million.


Popular Scams

A dial up telephone used to conduct senior scams. Many scammers hope that their victims suffer from cognitive impairment

According to the Administration for Community Living, there are a number of commonly used schemes from con artists that seniors should be aware of.


Debt Relief Scam — Senior Americans will generally use credit cards more to compensate for decreasing retirement portfolios and increasing medical costs. Seniors can fall victim to companies that seek upfront fees for services that are provided by the government for little or no cost. Scam artists may instruct the senior to redirect payments to them, not the creditor.


Fake Relative — For this scam, a perpetrator calls the victim and pretends to be a relative who is in distress and needs money. The victim is then asked to be wired or transferred to a financial institution.


Identity Theft — By using one or more pieces of the victim’s personal information, scammers can establish or take over a financial account in the victim’s name. Some identifying information they can use to do this includes a name, address, driver’s license, date of birth, social security number, and more.


Charity Scam — A scammer will call a senior and persuade them to buy a nonexistent product, donate to a fake charity, or invest in a fictitious enterprise. Seniors can be particularly vulnerable to this kind of a scheme as they are often home during the workweek and more likely to answer the phone.


Many criminals have similar tactics that they will often use. Be aware of these tactics and look out for them when you or your loved one is browsing the web, using their email, or answering the phone.


These are just some of the common scams that are used on senior citizens. There are a number of others that can occur in-person or online.


Tips For Seniors With Cognitive Impairment

A daughter talking to her father about how to avoid senior scams, along with the potential of his cognitive impairement

If you are worried that your loved one may be at risk for scams, there are a number of lifestyle changes and preventative measures that you can make in order to avoid these problems before they ever begin.


Respond Cautiously — If you are online or on the phone and someone you don’t know asks you to send them money, you should immediately take caution. Legitimate organizations offering contests or lotteries will not ask you to send them money in order to claim a prize. Likewise, one of the common scam methods is when a con artist poses as a member of the Internal Revenue Service. You should know that the IRS would never call you to demand immediate payment.


Check Credit Report — Checking your credit report regularly is a good way to help guard and protect yourself from identity theft. You can access free credit reports online but you will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth in order to properly verify your identity.


Keep Your Password Protected — One of the easiest ways to keep your identity and information safe is to use good, long passwords and to keep them safe and secure. Do not share your passwords or any account numbers with others. If you think someone has your password, notify the institution and take the steps to change your password.


Obviously, there are more steps that you can take to protect yourself and your loved one, such as becoming more cautious when on the phone or internet and becoming more technology literate.


Next Steps

As mentioned before, as we age we become increasingly susceptible to scams. Unfortunately, seniors who are more likely to fall victim to online or over-the-phone scams are at an increased likelihood of dealing with cognitive impairment and problems like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In fact, one six-year study found that seniors who have low scam awareness are 60 percent more likely to deal with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.


Issues like Alzheimer’s and dementia can make living independently increasingly difficult as it becomes harder and harder to perform day-to-day tasks. Luckily, there are resources available to help those dealing with issues related to cognitive impairment. Landmark Senior Living is one organization that can help your loved one as they deal with these new issues. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website and schedule a complimentary walkthrough of our assisted living facilities in new mexico.


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Topics: Senior Mental Health

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