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Crime Science

A Brain-Based Explanation For Why Old People Get Scammed 209

sciencehabit writes "Despite long experience with the ways of the world, older people are especially vulnerable to fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission, up to 80% of scam victims are over 65. One explanation may lie in a brain region that serves as a built-in crook detector. Called the anterior insula, this structure — which fires up in response to the face of an unsavory character — is less active in older people, possibly making them less cagey than younger folks, a new study finds."
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A Brain-Based Explanation For Why Old People Get Scammed

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  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:01AM (#42179099)

    They're also (as a general populace) more lonely, less educated, more dependent on repairmen to do tasks for them, and more financially well-off than their younger counterparts.

    They're basically the perfect soup for travelers, gypsy trash, and other assorted con-artist-pieces-of-shit to take advantage of. Makes me want to go back to the days when a tall tree and short noose waited for that filth when they got caught. There is very little in this world lower than someone willing to take advantage of the elderly.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:06AM (#42179167) Homepage Journal

    Called the anterior insula, this structure — which fires up in response to the face of an unsavory character

    Just because someone's shady looking, does not mean they're a thief. The inverse holds true as well.

    Truth be told, most-if-not-all of us have been robbed of far more by white guys in suits, rather than black guys in hoodies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:12AM (#42179255)

    If young people weren't all such self-involved pricks and actually bothered to spend the 30-45 minutes EVERY TWO YEARS that it takes to CAST A FUCKING VOTE then maybe there wouldn't be such a death grip on this country from the elderly...

    One good troll deserves another.

  • by Worthless_Comments ( 987427 ) <> on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @11:27AM (#42179455)
    That's like saying she deserved to be raped because she didn't go to her self-defense classes.
  • Re:Generation Gap? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @12:10PM (#42180051)

    There never was a Mayberry and people were just as dishonest then as they are now

    I have to disagree at least for the US. Over the past half century a lot of rural places have changed from not locking one's doors to widespread theft of agricultural equipment and various manifestations of the drug war, such as marijuana growing and meth labs.

    Another place is college. Try leaving a laptop or bicycle unlocked and unattended. Fifty years ago you could have gotten away with it except for perhaps the most urbanized colleges.

    It is worth noting that just as there is the myth of Mayberry, there's also the myth of the Children of the Corn, namely, that small towns have "dark secrets". My view is that small towns were more honest because that is what it takes for a small, isolated society where everyone knows everyone, to survive. It also becomes much harder for dishonesty to profit. You have a small set of possible targets, and they'll figure it out eventually.

    When you get large urban societies or a massive, flat society like the internet, potential con artists can easily move from one mark to the next as well as filter through large numbers of potential targets for a mark. Thieves have a sea of targets to choose from. The payoff for dishonesty and theft is much better.

    So I agree that the people haven't really changed. But the payoffs for various sorts of dishonesty have changed.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @12:57PM (#42180649) Homepage Journal

    Weed got legalised because they held a vote on the actual issue. Of course it's worthwhile voting on individual issues. Jeez.

    Voting for a person rather than on issues as a way to express your opinion is like asking your taxi driver to solve a set of riddles rather than telling him your actual destination. How does voting for a specific person say that you want weed legalised? Maybe you abhor weed, but you agree with the rest of the guy's policies, etc. I'd rather we had a system of being allowed to nominate issues and vote on them. Voting certain people into certain positions of authority is probably still a good idea, but it's a very poor way to make your wishes known, and it's dumb to act like things aren't going the way you want simply because you didn't vote for a certain individual.

  • by Magnus Pym ( 237274 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:53PM (#42181393)

    You are absolutely right. Old people are in general desperately lonely, and they often suppress `warning messages' for the company when being conned by a smart personable young person (or a cheerful voice at the end of the phone line).

    The problem is really social isolation.

    The father of one of my closest friends (in his 80s) was conned into investing close to $250,000.00 into a real estate venture in Latin America. He is not someone who comes across as a doddering old man. He is still alert, reasonably physically fit (for his age) and shows no signs of dementia. He had a successful career in business and survived all the vicious corporate politics of the huge corporation that he worked for, and retired with a healthy retirement account.

    But pretty much everyone he knows is either dead or lives too far away for regular contact. His children live across the country and his spouse is no more. He has almost no living friends. Pretty much everyone whom he knew before he was 30 have passed on. The elderly do not make new friends very easily with their own age group. He goes for weeks without talking to a single soul (think of the guy from the movie `Up', that scenario is quite accurate). He is isolated, lonely, disenfranchised and desperate to feel relevant to society.

    He was ripe for the picking by the smart young woman who knocked on his door in a business suit, heels and with a briefcase full of glossy brochures.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming