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Scammers are stealing people's money through a scheme that has nothing to do with your password

Elena Holodny
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  • Appealing to people's emotions is an effective tactic used by scammers.
  • A Stanford study found that older adults who were excited or angry were more likely to want to buy an item in a misleading ad.
  • Younger adults were more likely to buy an item based on the credibility of the ad.

Scammers can appeal to emotions like excitement and anger to mislead people -- and the older you are, the more you may be at risk.

That's according to a study by the Stanford Center on Longevity, which was funded by the Financial Fraud Research Center by AARP and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

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The study had two age groups: older adults, aged 65 to 85, and younger adults, aged 30 to 40. Both groups went through a series of tests that made them feel a strong positive emotion (excitement), a strong negative emotion (anger), or a weak emotion (which was called "neutral"). Then, all the groups were presented misleading advertisements to see if they were interested in buying what was being advertised.

The team found that the older adults in the excitement or anger groups reported "greater intention" to buy the items in the misleading ads than those who were in the neutral group.

Young adults, meanwhile, saw no major differences based on emotions. The more credible younger adults rated a given ad, the more likely they said they would be to buy what was being advertised.

For older adults -- across all three emotional states -- there was no relationship between how credible an ad looked and how likely they were to buy it.

"When emotionally aroused, either excited or frustrated, older adults may be more susceptible to being victimized by scammers than are younger individuals," Ian H. Gotlib, the David Starr Jordan Professor of Psychology at Stanford, told Stanford News. "They were more likely to want to pay for an item advertised misleadingly, regardless of how credible they believed the advertisement was."

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Financial scammers sometimes prey on older adults, especially those who are retired. And although older adults aren't necessarily defrauded at higher rates than younger adults, older adults are more susceptible to certain types of scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Victims of elder financial abuse lose about $US36,000 on average, a 2014 study by Allianz Life found.

These issues will be important to address as the population of elderly adults in the United States continues to grow.

Check out the full study from Stanford here »