Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced earlier this week the largest coordinated actions against perpetrators of elder fraud in American history. Along with the Justice Department, other federal agencies including the Federal Trade Commission as well as state Attorneys General were involved in cases charging more than 250 people with fraud totaling more that a billion dollars. The types of scams used to target elderly people included phony lottery scams, the grandparent scam, romance scams, investment scams, tech support scams, IRS impostor scams and guardianship scams. You can find information about all of these specific scams and tips on how to avoid them by going to the “Search for Scams” tab at the top of the first page of and then enter the specific type of scam where it indicates “Search Here.”
Older people are frequently targeted by scammers because they often have a lifetime of accumulated savings and are perceived as being more trusting. In fact, a study by researchers at Cornell University published in the Journals of Gerontology concluded that naturally occurring changes in the brains of older people makes them vulnerable to financial exploitation.  The changes noted were in a part of the brain that alert us when facing a risky situation as well as another part of the brain that controls the ability to read social cues.  This deterioration of the brain can and is exploited by scammers to swindle older people.
A previous study by the University of Iowa also found changes in another part of the brain during aging that controls belief and doubt that would make older people less skeptical and therefore more likely to be a scam victim.
According to another study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute the cost of financial exploitation of the elderly is approximately 3 billion dollars annually.
If you have an elderly family member who may be undergoing a decline in mental acuity, it is important to take specific steps to help prevent them from becoming a victim of financial exploitation.  First, it is important to recognize that many elderly victims of financial exploitation are victimized by their own family members or caregivers.  Keeping personal financial information and account information safe and secure is an important first step to take.  It is also important to regularly monitor the accounts of seniors.  Limits on access to funds such as through debit cards that can be customized to monitor spending, block certain types of transactions and set spending limits can be useful to some people.