Low scam awareness could be an early sign of Alzheimer's

JUST HANG UP: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
JUST HANG UP: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"I'm a Nigerian prince who needs your help buy gems" and "you've won squillions in an international lottery."

We all know the lines of a scammer. So why do older people keep falling for them?

A new study thinks low scam awareness may actually be an early sign of impending cognitive decline and dementia.

Researchers from America's Rush Alzheimer's Disease Centre conducted scam awareness questionnaires with more than 900 participants and followed up six years later

They found that those who scored lower in the questionnaire were more likely to have adverse cognitive outcomes.

This year alone, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reports more than $25 million has been lost to scammers.

Over 65s are the most likely group to be scammed, with almost 8000 reports received from seniors and almost $6 million lost.

Older people are usually targeted because scammers believe they have more money and accumulated wealth than younger people, plus are generally seen as less internet and computer savvy.

Dating scams are commonly used against older people, with con-artists scouring dating sites and social media for older Australians who have recently divorced or lost a long term partner. These types of scams take advantage of a person's inexperience with dating sites and their often vulnerable emotional states.

Stay safe

Think you've got a scammer on the line? The ACCC has the following tips to protect yourself:

  • Don't be pressured into making a decision. Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency through short deadlines, fake emergencies or threats of legal action.
  • Be suspicious of requests for money - even if they sound or look official. Government departments will never contact you asking for money upfront in order to claim a rebate.
  • Scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards or virtual currency such as Bitcoin.
  • Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly - find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
  • Don't respond to phone calls or emails offering financial advice or opportunities - just hang up or delete the email.
  • Always do your own research before you invest money and check the company or scheme is licensed on ASIC's MoneySmart website.
  • Be wary of people you meet social media or online dating sites who after just a few contacts profess strong feelings for you and try to move you away from the site and communicate via chat or email.
  • Be suspicious of unexpected emails or letters advising you how to claim an inheritance or competition prize. Never give out your personal details and seek advice from an independent professional.
  • Be aware of and understand your consumer rights.

If you think you've been scammed, contact ScamWatch or your local police station immediately.

This story Why do we keep falling for scams? first appeared on The Senior.