New Wayne State University research shows older adults are being swindled at an alarming rate— one in ten Detroit residents over age 65 reports being scammed.

Director of Wayne State’s Institute of Gerontology, Peter Lichtenberg, said the down economy makes the problem worse because potential victims and those who prey on them are so desperate.

“I think that older adults are becoming a much more of a target in the pressing economy. They often do have some reliable income, so they’re more a target for how can we get that income away from them,” said Lichtenberg

Not only has the bad economy made criminals more desperate — it has also made them cleverer.

“The scammers really know how to alter their pitch depending on, kind of, the cues they pick up, so they’re very, very sharp, and relentless,” he said.

The rates of senior citizen fraud in Detroit are already twice the national average, but they may be even higher than reported. Lichtenberg said the actual number of cases may be higher than reflected in the research, because some seniors may not consider it criminal if they were swindled by family members or other people they trusted.

Older adults who feel isolated and lonely are easily befriended, increasing the risk of being swindled by 30 percent. That’s the reason Lichtenberg believes that the best strategy for protecting seniors is a strong support network of friends and family.


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