Why the Elderly Get Scammed

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Here's one explanation for why rip-offs may target older generations.

An Ohio public radio station older people are more trusting…

“A smile that is in the mouth but doesn’t go up to the eyes, an averted gaze, a backward lean” are some of the ways deception may present itself, says Shelley Taylor, a psychologist at UCLA.

Taylor wanted to know if older people recognized these visual cues as readily as younger people. She brought 119 adults older than 55 into the research lab along with 24 younger adults in their 20s. Both groups were shown 30 photographs, each depicting either a trustworthy, a neutral or an untrustworthy face.

“The older adults rated the trustworthy faces and the neutral faces exactly the same as the younger adults did, but when it got to the cues of untrustworthiness, they didn’t process those cues as well,” she says. “They rated those people as much more trustworthy than the younger adults did.”

Researchers suggest elderly people also try to take a more positive view on life, and that aversion to negativity creates a mental blind spot scammers exploit.

Stacy Johnson

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