Older adults have many opportunities as they age. If they have the means (both financially and health wise), they can travel, volunteer, explore interests or pursue hobbies. But the sad reality is that con artists can take away those opportunities in a heartbeat.

According to a study conducted by AARP, consumers lose billions of dollars every year to various kinds of fraud. People over 50 years of age are especially vulnerable and account for more than half of all victims. Let’s face it: older adults tend to have more savings at their disposal and higher credit ratings, making them more attractive targets than many other demographics. 

According to Jocelyn Baird at NextAdvisor, there are a number of things that make older adults more likely to be targets — and victims — of fraud and identity theft. Sometimes it’s a generational issue; many of today’s elderly were brought up in a time when people were more trusting of one another. Other times, older adults don’t want to be viewed as helpless by their family or caretakers, so they don’t share a situation that is troubling them. It may also be a matter of how the brain changes as people age: a study conducted by a UCLA psychologist reported older adults might have less activity in the areas of the brains which process risk and subtle danger.

Unfortunately, whether it’s due a specific reason or many, older adults are at risk for fraud and identity theft. It’s important for the people in their lives to understand these risks and do their part to protect the older adults they care about from the many scams that lurk. As aging expert Carolyn Rosenblatt said in a recent Forbes article, it’s not just a matter of law enforcement or the government taking action — older adults and their caregivers also need to be vigilant.

So how do you protect yourself – or your parents, or grandparents – from being victimized by an identity thief?  The answer is the same as it is for every other demographic: education. A free workshop called “Identify Theft: Learn How to Protect Yourself” will be offered at Community Thread on Wednesday, November 9 at 10 am. Presenters Steve and Debbie Cunningham have been volunteers with the AARP Fraud Fighter team since 2010. As Steve shared “scam artists have become very sophisticated. While identity theft creates the most wealth for the thieves, the workshop will touch on the full gamut of con jobs out there. No matter how the potential victim is approached, there are commonalities the scams share and we will teach people what to listen for and how to respond”.

Research conducted by AARP and the Department of Justice show that consumer education can lower a victim’s willingness to respond to fraudulent pitches by over 50 percent. So consider investing an hour of your time on November 9 and learn to protect yourself (or your loved one) from a potential financial disaster. Turn your attractiveness as a target into the smarts needed protect yourself and the older adults you care about.

By Sally Anderson