As we age, changes in our brain make us more susceptible to exploitation.

ImpactofFraudHallie Swift is a poet with a keen eye for art, and she recently blogged about what happened to her mom. One of the comments in her story discussed how the changes in our brains as we age make us more susceptible to fraud and exploitation.

In working with older adults to manage their day-to-day finances, the onslaught of scams and ploys to get their money is never ending. For my oldest clients, we usually start by going through the mail together. The amount of non-profits that use language to convey a prior commitment to give saddens me as a former non-profit marketing professional. These are used even by the top-notch charities. They know that the “greatest generation” meets their commitments and language stating “Thanks for your pledge of $20.00” is very successful at generating donations.

If you are seeing a lot more donations, your loved one might be a victim of this tactic. I know that it worked on my parents. Their habit of giving once a year turned into checks every month.

However, the important thing to know is that the changes in our aging brains may make us all victims of some of the more serious and predatory scams that result in over 36 Billion dollars a year as reported by the National Council on Aging. I think it is valuable for all of us to know that it might be a natural consequence of getting older.

Beyond the concern to the finances is the emotional toll this takes on older adults. From additional health issues to trouble in a marriage, support around managing the checkbook might be a welcome relief to someone in your life.

For more on the full report, you can visit: Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust.  In summary:

“Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability.

Two studies, one behavioral and one using neuroimaging methodology, identified age differences in trust and their neural underpinnings. Older and younger adults rated faces high in trust cues similarly, but older adults perceived faces with cues to
untrustworthiness to be significantly more trustworthy and approachable than younger adults. This age-related pattern was mirrored in neural activation to cues of trustworthiness. Whereas younger adults showed greater anterior insula activation to untrustworthy versus trustworthy faces, older adults showed muted activation of the anterior insula to untrustworthy faces. The insula has been shown to support interoceptive awareness that forms the basis of “gut feelings,” which represent expected risk and predict risk-avoidant behavior. Thus, a diminished “gut” response to cues
of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”

Aging ain’t for sissies. I hope this helps you consider how you might help a loved one as well as consider how to protect yourself in the years to come. Considered. 

One thought on “As we age, changes in our brain make us more susceptible to exploitation.

  1. I just read your article about end-of-life choices. I am so grateful for your experience – thanks for sharing. My mom doesn’t have dementia but I’m making the decisions – some really difficult ones, like having a feeding tube inserted despite his living will. I look forward to reading articles in your blog – thanks again!

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