A new study advises clinical gerontologists to be aware that psychologically vulnerable seniors are at risk of financial exploitation.
Researchers at Wayne State University, in collaboration with Illinois Institute of Technology, discovered financial exploitation of the elderly is on the rise.
This exploitation, which includes telemarketing scams, fake home repairs, fake check scams, identity theft and more, costs approximately $3 billion each year.
The study is published in the journal Clinical Gerontologist.
Experts say the research is unique with the listing of factors that predict exposure to financial fraud or victimization. The study is also the first to review financial exploitation with a psychological-vulnerability perspective.
“This study illustrates how we can enhance our understanding of this major issue by performing a clinical analysis instead of one that stops at epidemiological or broad population-based reviews,” said Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., lead author of the paper. “Those in the clinical study showed characteristics of extreme depression symptoms and perceived low social-status fulfillment, thus showing they were more vulnerable to the experience of theft of scams. “
The study included 4,440 participants.
Researchers discovered that among the 4,440 participants, those who were the most psychologically vulnerable – with the highest levels of depression and lowest levels of social-needs fulfillment — experienced higher levels of fraud compared to those who were not vulnerable psychologically.
“One of the most significant findings of our study was with the most psychologically vulnerable population,” said Lichtenberg. “The combination of high depression and low social-status fulfillment was associated with a 226 percent increase in fraud prevalence in this population.
“This supports our theory that depressive symptoms and lack of social-needs fulfillment have an effect on fraud prediction, and serves as a reminder to clinical gerontologists how psychological vulnerability can affect older adults’ lives in a variety of ways.”
Reserchers recommend that this population be assessed for the potential of financial exploitation, and that this assessment should be a regular part of clinicians’ tool kits when working with highly vulnerable individuals.
Source: Wayne State University