By James Toomey
Many people, including, it seems, most advocates for law reform, assume that older adults are uniquely vulnerable to scams, and indeed that senior scams are a unique social problem demanding a unique legal solution. But in “The Age of Fraud” (forthcoming in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, winter 2023), about which I’ve blogged here before, I reported the results of an empirical study suggesting that, in fact, younger adults were as much as three times more likely to engage with scammers during the first year of the COVID pandemic than older adults.
One possible implication of this finding — if indeed it is generalizable — which I discuss but don’t commit to in the paper, is that more people are more vulnerable to scams — and the polished tactics of psychological manipulation used by scammers — than has been generally appreciated. But if scams are not a bounded problem of those who are in some sense more psychologically vulnerable (as older adults are thought of in, at least, the popular imagination), we might want to rethink scams — what they are, how we fight them, and how we treat and think about their victims.