Successful scams perpetrated against senior citizens might indicate they have early warning signs of dementia. This conclusion comes from a new study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The researchers found that older adults with low scam awareness had twice as much risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as their less-susceptible peers.
Successful Scams: Study Results
Researchers from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago assigned 935 cognitively healthy seniors a scam awareness score. This score was calculated on their statements such as “I answer the telephone whenever it rings, even if I don’t know who’s calling” and “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
Next, participants’ cognitive function was tested over a six year period. Seniors who scored highly on scams vulnerability were also twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Furthermore, for participants who died over the course of the study, brain autopsies were done. The data showed the seniors with high scam vulnerability scores also showed significant brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers conclude that scam susceptibility and social judgment might be among the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Developing screening tools that assess a broad spectrum of behavior could help identify individuals at risk for dementia. Currently close to six million adults in the United States are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Scientists project this to rise to fourteen million by the year 2050.
Victimization and vulnerability are red flags that indicate that someone is struggling and may need more careful monitoring. While senior citizens are the most vulnerable, even healthy seniors can fall prey to scams.
Depression and social isolation are linked to the loss of billions of dollars through scams. Specifically, it takes a heavy toll on the senior population that is most vulnerable.