Scam artists are targeting older Americans more than ever. Over the last decade, both complaints and financial losses among baby boomers have skyrocketed, and the trend is expected to accelerate as they age, according to a recent report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 1.5 million complaints about financial and other fraud — up 62 percent in just three years, the report noted. But fraud may be even more pervasive, because researchers say that it often goes unreported.
Scammers see baby boomers as a prime target because of their financial status and size — around 75 million people — along with the potential for cognitive decline as the generation ages. According to the report:
Baby boomers are accumulating inheritances from their parents, adding to substantial home equity and a lifetime of saving for retirement as the first generation to experience the transition from traditional pensions to 401(k) accounts. When money is combined with cognitive decline among aging baby boomers, it can be a recipe for fraud.
Other characteristics that make post 50s vulnerable to fraud include dependency on others, unfamiliarity with the Internet and its risks, and loneliness that makes them more apt to engage with strangers.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 2011 was expected to be a record year when it came to enforcement actions for defrauding post 50s. The main culprits behind the scams are unregistered securities:
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