Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to a wide range of dubious financial schemes, although the reasons for their vulnerability are not clear. We propose six studies that use experimental and neuroimaging methodologies to explore the social and neural bases of this vulnerability. We examine age differences in trust and the ability to use cues of untrustworthiness to decode facial expressions (Study 1);identify patterns of neural activity underlying these age differences (Study 2);evaluate whether older adults evaluate financial messages that vary in credibility more positively than younger adults (Study 3);determine whether faces perceived to be trustworthy enhance receptivity to low credibility investment messages (Study 4);address whether older adults show impaired ability to detect deceit (Study 5);and identify the neural underpinnings of age-related differences in the ability to detect deceit (Study 6). In addition, all of the studies examine how dispositional trust, loneliness, social contact, cognitive functioning, time frame, and financial literacy affect perceptions of trust, deceit, financial messages, and their neural underpinnings. Taken together, the studies explore how: social isolation;declines in older adults'ability to decode deceit and recognize cues of untrustworthiness;an inappropriately high trust of strangers;age differences in emotion regulation processes (less frequent experience of negative emotion and more frequent experience of positive emotion);and age differences in the functioning of brain regions related to the processing of negative stimuli, especially the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, insula, and superior temporal sulcus (STS) are related to vulnerability to financial scams. The financial health of older adults is critically important for their mental and physical health. The ability to identify precisely why older adults demonstrate vulnerability to financial scams will be helpful in pinpointing policies that may be developed to reduce this vulnerability.
The financial health of older adults is critically related to their physical and mental health needs, as a financial shock can be a precipitating factor for poor health outcomes, including coronary heart disease, functional decline, and mortality. Further, financial reversals at older ages have significant implications for the wider society;as such people are likely to become more reliant on governmental health and financial support programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Consequently, the public health implications of older adults'vulnerability to financial fraud are manifold.