Doctors on scam alert

Want to get depressed? Think about all the scams targeted at our grandparents and aging parents. Nose-bleed fees on complicated annuities unsuitable for seniors. Pump-and-dump swindles. Reverse mortgage rackets. Deceptive charities. Ponzi schemes. Foreign lotteries. Deceptive living Trusts. Identity theft. Health care swindles. Nigerian letters. Telemarketing snake oil.

Sad to say, there are plenty more cons to name. Fleecing people is a growth industry, especially those scams targeted at the elderly. About a third of all victims of fraud schemes are seniors, according to some estimates, even though seniors make up about 15% of the population. Among the reasons con artists target older folks is that many elderly live alone, all too susceptible to the siren song of a supposedly concerned and caring crook. Older people tend to have ready cash and a stash of retirement savings, too.

And then there's mental deterioration. New medical research shows that more than a third of Americans over the age of 71 have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer's disease. It makes them particularly susceptible to investment swindles and other financial abuse. It's why 24 securities regulators have joined in a major national "Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program". The goal is to educate thousands of U.S. medical professionals about how to spot older Americans who may be particularly vulnerable to investment fraud abuse and then to refer these at-risk patients to state securities regulators and adult services professionals. Let's hope it helps.

And adult children need to pay attention, too.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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