Friday, January 18, 2008

Are Seniors Really That Stupid?

I know that elders are favorite targets for scammers. I get emails from those friendly African financiers quite often, but I erase them from my spam folder regularly. I suppose some of those "You've just won $1,000,000!" notices are attractive to someone trying to pay the rent, but I'm much too skeptical for such things. Anyway, I've always given my fellow seniors credit for wisdom and common sense.

An article published today by the Echo Press of Alexandria, Minnesota, made me wonder. What do you think? Here is an excerpt:

"Senior citizens warned of new scam"

"An Olmsted County woman has lost $7,000 in a new scam that is primarily targeting the elderly. The scam begins with a phone call from someone claiming to be the victim’s grandchild or other close relative. The caller claims to be in trouble in Canada and in need of money to pay a fine. Without the money, they say, they face jail time. The caller then asks the victim not to discuss the matter with his or her parents for fear of angering them.

“'These frauds are devastating for the victims, and the people behind them know how to con vulnerable citizens,' says John Willems, special agent in-charge of the state’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division. 'It’s critical Minnesotans recognize and report these frauds so authorities can track down the offenders.'"

The article goes on to discuss the state's anti-fraud efforts and gives Minnesota residents a number to call to report fraud attempts.

I'm glad that public officials in Minnesota, one of my favorite states, a state where I've attended graduate school and where some of my relatives still live, is striving to protect its seniors, but this article left me with a question: Who is stupid enough not to know whether he or she is really talking to a "grandchild or other close relative"? Is anyone, regardless of age, willing to believe some strange caller, no matter how clever, is really a relative? Wouldn't you ask a few questions? I admit that I have no grandchild, and few close relatives, but I certainly would not send money to anyone without checking on a few facts.

I guess my points are these: Yes, seniors, and everybody else, should be wary of scammerss, and there are many of them out there. However, using such a silly example (it may have happened, but it certainly is not typical) tends to suggest that elders are idiots. It doesn't do much for stereotypes of Minnesotans, either. I have reason to believe that most elders, in Minnesota and elsewhere, are too smart and wary to fall for such a scam.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne



Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. I think that there is a myth about Elder vulnerability and intelligence. Some people of all age groups fall for scams. But I do not believe that Elders are more susceptible than others. Even Elders seem to accept this exaggeration. Thanks for the post. Judith

seniorwriter said...

Thanks, Judith. If anything, I think we elders tend to be cynical rather than too trusting.