Older Adults at Risk for Real-World Impersonation Scams

Highest cognition and financial literacy reported for older adults who engage but with skepticism
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Medically Reviewed By :
Meeta Shah, M.D.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 27, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- A considerable proportion of older adults engage with a mimicked real-world imposter scam without skepticism, according to a study published online Sept. 22 in JAMA Network Open.

Lei Yu, Ph.D., from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues explored the vulnerability of older adults to a U.S. government impersonation scam in a cross-sectional study conducted from October to December 2021. A total of 644 participants were exposed to deceptive materials through mailers, emails, and phone calls by a live agent and were classified based on the phone call data as no engagement, engagement, and conversion.

The researchers found that 441 (68.5 percent) participants did not engage, 97 (15.1 percent) engaged but raised skepticism about the legitimacy of outreach, and 106 (16.4 percent) converted (answered or called in without skepticism, or confirmed that they did not change their personal information, or provided the last four digits of their Social Security number). The highest cognition and financial literacy were reported for older adults who engaged but with skepticism, while the lowest scam awareness was reported for those in the conversion group. There were no differences noted in psychological and other behavioral measures by levels of engagement.

"The findings of this cross-sectional study provide powerful evidence that many more older adults than currently recognized, including many without cognitive impairment, actively engage with potentially fraudulent pitches and are at risk of victimization and the deleterious health and financial consequences that result," the authors write.

Several authors reported employment by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation, a wholly owned subsidiary of FINRA and not-for-profit regulator of all securities firms doing business in the United States, which funded a portion of the study.

Abstract/Full Text

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