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Beware of Financial Abuse of Psychologically Vulnerable Seniors

Beware of Financial Abuse among Elders with Psychological Vulnerability  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

Elderly woman counting her money photo by shutterstock.

Beware of Financial Abuse of Psychologically Vulnerable Seniors

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Beware of Financial Abuse of Psychologically Vulnerable Seniors. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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