US Study Says Older People Are More Susceptible to Financial Fraud Because of How The Brain Works

According to a study published previously in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the reason why elderly people are more susceptible than younger folk to financial fraud is because the ability to identify trustworthiness decreases with age. The researchers looked at two different groups-one group was comprised of younger adults (ages 20 to 42) and older adults (ages 55-84.)

The groups judged faces in photographs. These faces had been pre-rated for approachability and trustworthiness.

While both groups identified those that had been pre-rated as neutral or trustworthy as approachable and trustworthy, the older group was more likely than the younger group to identify the faces that had been pre-rated as ‘untrustworthy’ as trustworthy. Shelly Taylor, a UCLA psychologist who was involved with the study, said that the reason for this was that older adults did not detect certain “easily distinguished” facial cues indicative of untrustworthiness.

The researchers asked another forty-four participants to undergo functional magnetic resonance while rating the faces. While the older adults did not display much of an activation in the anterior insula, which is the part of the brain known for regulating “gut feelings” that affect decision-making, the younger adults’ anterior insula exhibited a stronger response. Taylor said that while the younger adults were getting that ‘uh-oh’ feeling, the older adults were not.

Another psychologist, Lis Nielsen of the National Institute on Aging, said that more needs to be done to figure out whether the results identified are a result of aging on the brain or if older adults are merely less compelled to look for signs of untrustworthiness. According to the journal Nature, other work indicated that older adults are more likely to recall positive information than negative information compared to younger adults.

Unfortunately, not being able to identify whether or not someone is trustworthy, especially when the signs are obvious, can make a person easily susceptible to deception and fraud. For older adults, many of whom are no longer bringing in an income, the effect on their retirement funds and ability to care for themselves can be devastating.

Many financial fraudsters have been known to target elderly investors because they have savings. Because of old age, isolation, and mental impairment, this older demographic may be more vulnerable than younger folk to becoming a victim of fraud.

Our elder financial fraud investors are here to help. Contact us today.

Older people are more susceptible to swindlers, Nature, December 3, 2012

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Elder Abuse: Financial Scams Against Seniors, Nolo
National Institute on Aging