Figures from the U.S. Department of Justice show that $3 billion is defrauded from millions of seniors per year. A chunk of this amount is stolen through phone scams.
Now, a new research suggests a link between falling for the promises of bogus telemarketers and dementia. Researchers said that older people who are easily tricked by scams could be in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia affecting nearly 6 million in the United States. Symptoms of the condition include memory loss and difficulty communicating and concentrating.
No cure is currently available for the neurological condition.
Scam Awareness And Risk For Alzheimer's Disease
In a new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday, April 15, Patricia Boyle, from Rush University's Alzheimer's Disease Center, and colleagues involved 935 older adults who had not been diagnosed with dementia.
The researchers asked the participants to fill in a questionnaire designed to test their awareness of scams.
The questionnaire featured questions that measured the participants' openness to sales pitch, their attitudes toward risky investment, and how informed they were about scams that target the elderly.
Every year for six years, the participants completed neuropsychological tests that check for Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment.
Brain autopsies were also performed on 264 of the participants who died over the course of the study period. The post-mortem examination of the brain were performed to look for the build up of beta-amyloid and tau tangles, which are both associated with Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers found that within the group of older people who showed no signs of dementia, those with little to no awareness of potential scams showed greater risk for mild cognitive decline. These individuals were also at higher risk for Alzheimer's disease compared with those who were more conscious of potential cons.
In the case of the deceased participants, researchers found a link between low scam awareness at the start of the study and physical signs of Alzheimer's disease, particularly the presence of beta amyloid plaque.
Scam Awareness Test To Help Diagnose Dementia
The researchers hope that a test for scam awareness could help diagnose Alzheimer's in the future.
"Our study suggests that assessment of behaviors such as scam awareness hold promise for early detection, but additional work is needed to develop and validate measures appropriate for use in clinical settings," Boyle said.