Study: Stress Makes Seniors More Vulnerable to Scam Artists

Mark Richardson, Public News Service (AZ)

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Scams are never a good thing to be involved with, but new research shows that people undergoing stressful events in their lives are more vulnerable to con artists. 

The AARP-sponsored report finds that seniors who are struggling with stress, from things like the pandemic, financial problems or the loss of a loved one, are more susceptible to falling for a fraud or a scam. 

The report found that 90% of Americans experienced an attempted fraud last year, and 1 out of 7 lost money. Linda Vitale is an AARP Arizona volunteer specializing in anti-fraud education. 

She said the crooks have scams down to a science. 

“Scams are 90% emotion and 10% intellect,” said Vitale. “So con artists are masters of persuasion. They excel at being able to manipulate you by exploiting your emotion.”

Vitale works with AARP’s Fraud Watch program and said scammers usually do their homework, profiling their potential victims to find emotional triggers or vulnerabilities they can exploit. 

Seniors 50 years and older often are vulnerable because they are more trusting, more cooperative, and have a willingness to help others.

Vitale said scams have been on the increase during the pandemic, when people are at home and isolated from family members and others in their support system. They often are lonely and looking for someone to talk to. 

The study found that life stressors can sometimes keep some people from thinking clearly. 

“In this study, they said that coping with a stressful life event usually consumes cognitive capacity,” said Vitale. “And of course, as you are older, you have less cognitive capacity.”

The study found that, compared with others, fraud victims had experienced more than twice as many stressful events, such as a death in the family or a job loss, when the con artist invaded their lives. 

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is at