Being the victim of a scam can be distressing. Besides the loss of funds, seniors can feel shame for falling for the scam and lose trust in people.

The range of scams vary. There are con artists who make phone calls pretending to be from a government agency looking for money that you “owe,” from a lottery promising anything from cash to luxury vacations, and even pretending to be a grandchild who’s in trouble and looking for quick money to get out of a jam (this is referred to as the Grandparents Scam). All told, seniors in the United States lose more than $35 billion each year to financial fraud.

Now, there could be more long-term concern over falling for a scam. Amsterdam Cares for Rehabilitation and Nursing wants to bring to your attention a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who are easily tricked by scams could be in the early stages of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The study included 935 seniors over the course of six years. It asked questions that measured how they would handle sales pitches and how informed they were about elderly scams, among other things. The subjects also underwent brain tests each year to check for Alzheimer’s and other memory problems.

The study, which was primarily funded by the National Institute on Aging, found that testing poorly on the scam awareness exam was associated with an increased risk for dementia. Researchers did caution that falling victim to a scam doesn’t mean the person will have Alzheimer’s in the future, and additional work is needed to support the theory.

Researchers hope that being able to identify another potential risk factor of Alzheimer’s can lead to earlier diagnoses, which can slow the progression of the disease.

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