The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 8, 2012

Getting gray? Get skeptical

Study shows elderly more vulnerable to fraud

By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — On Dec. 6, National Public Radio aired an important story on its “Morning Edition” program. In case you missed it, the story was titled “Why it’s easier to scam the elderly,” reported by Patti Neighmond.

The program looked at the findings of a study conducted by Shelley Taylor, a psychologist at UCLA, who researched whether older adults are more vulnerable to fraud than others and to find out if excessive trust may be one of the reasons why older folks are more vulnerable to fraud than those younger.

In part of her study, Taylor found that when people are face to face with potential scammers — for instance, someone who comes to the door uninvited or approaches you on the street for a free dinner in exchange for sitting through a presentation — the older person is not as quick to recognize visual signs that someone is untrustworthy.

“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,” Taylor reported (To read the study, go to http://media.npr.org/documents/2012/dec/PerceptionsofTrust.pdf)

Some of those signs, according to Taylor, include “a smile that is in the mouth but doesn’t go up to the eyes, an averted gaze, a backward lean.”