Law needed to protect the elderly from scams

Law needed to protect the elderly from scams

Are the elderly in Singapore increasingly at risk of being financially scammed?

Old people make good targets for financial abuse. It's as basic as that. All the more so if widowed and living alone as this makes them socially isolated, giving scammers easy access without any third-party scrutiny.

The cognitive impairment that comes with ageing can make the elderly very vulnerable indeed.

This is when the brain-based skills which enable a person to understand the world and act in it have begun to deteriorate and adversely affect the elderly person's thinking, memory and decision- making.

It may also prevent the person from seeking help, getting out of a bind or fighting for herself.

Not all seniors are cognitively impaired, of course, but it is generally true that one's memory and information-processing capacity tend to decline with age.

And then there is dementia, which is due to an irreversible degeneration of the brain. In dementia, the mental processes of knowing, reasoning, remembering and judging become progressively impaired. Dementia makes the elderly "easy meat" for scammers.

This issue has been in the spotlight over the past month since news broke about an ongoing legal tussle involving a wealthy 87-year-old widow and a tour guide from China. The case is being investigated by various authorities, with no conclusions yet.

Given Singapore's rapidly ageing society, the possibility of the elderly falling victim to scammers and predators is a real one.

A large 2004 study of elder financial abuse cases reported to state governments in the United States found that cognitively impaired seniors who were lonely, forgetful, depressed or anxious were the ones most likely to be exploited.

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