Background: Falling victim to financial scams can have a significant impact upon social and financial wellbeing and independence. A large proportion of scam victims are older adults, but whether older victims with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are at higher risk remains unknown.
Objective: We tested the hypothesis that older persons with MCI exhibit greater susceptibility to scams compared to those without cognitive impairment.
Methods: Seven hundred and thirty older adults without dementia were recruited from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a community-based epidemiologic study of aging. Participants completed a five-item self-report measure of susceptibility to scams, a battery of cognitive measures, and clinical diagnostic evaluations.
Results: In models adjusted for age, education, and gender, the presence of MCI was associated with greater susceptibility to scams (B = 0.125, SE = 0.063, p-value = 0.047). Further, in analyses of the role of specific cognitive systems in susceptibility to scams among persons with MCI (n = 144), the level of performance in two systems, episodic memory and perceptual speed abilities, were associated with susceptibility.
Conclusions: Adults with MCI may be more susceptible to scams in old age than older persons with normal cognition. Lower abilities in specific cognitive systems, particularly perceptual speed and episodic memory, may contribute to greater susceptibility to scams in those with MCI.
Keywords: Cognition; episodic memory; mild cognitive impairment; processing speed; scam.