Scams and fraud have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental well-being, but the latest research found the emotional toll is particularly high on older adults.
Half the victims in fraud cases reported to the Federal Trade Commission were under age 30 but the financial losses are greater in older adults, at an average of $1,500. AARP said people who get scammed often experience shame and a desire for isolation.
Keith Gattozzi, a victim of a romance and cryptocurrency scam, said he felt awful after discovering he had fallen for someone who did not even exist. “Since I was in cybersecurity all my life, and I’m not stupid and I don’t know — I’m, like, looking for love in all the wrong places — but I felt like an idiot,” Gattozzi acknowledged. “I was embarrassed. I didn’t tell anybody. I told one of my friends; I didn’t tell anybody else.”
AARP, in conjunction with Volunteers of America’s ReST program, offers free online facilitated emotional support sessions for fraud victims. ReST stands for “Resilience, Strength and Time,” and people can attend as many sessions as they would like.
Seth Boffeli, senior adviser for fraud prevention at AARP, said the pandemic and dependence on technology have contributed to much of the increase in scams. Missouri reported $30 million in fraud losses in 2019, which jumped to $83 million last year.
Boffeli suggested it is just a matter of time before any American of any age will be tempted by a convincing scam. “What we need more understanding on is just what we’re facing,” Boffeli urged. “These are professional criminal enterprises that are master manipulators using technology — the latest technology — to take advantage of us. Any of us could fall victim.”
He added it is key in these cases to stop, think and verify, to prevent falling for a scam.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network tracks and posts information about current and common scams online. In some areas, they also teach community education classes, host free document-shredding events, and work with lawmakers on consumer protections.