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In Michigan, 1 in 3 seniors victimized by scams, more than nation, poll finds

close up older person's hands
A new poll from the University of Michigan suggests that older residents are particularly vulnerable to financial scams, especially if they are sick and on fixed incomes. (Shutterstock)
  • A poll finds 1 in 3 Michigan residents between ages 50 and 80 said they were scammed in the past two years 
  • The poll also suggests that residents with lower incomes and health challenges are particularly vulnerable
  • Study authors call for more policy fixes to protect seniors

The holiday season is often open season for scammers, and a poll conducted by the University of Michigan suggests that older Michiganders are more vulnerable to ripoffs than peers nationwide.

A recent poll found that more than two-thirds of older Michigan residents report someone tried to scam them in the past two years, and 3 in 10 say they were victimized. In all, 45 percent of older Michigan residents report having an account compromised, compared to 38 percent nationally.


“Our findings of a strong connection between scam vulnerability and health adds important new data to ongoing efforts to reduce the devastating toll of scams on older adults’ finances and well-being,” Jeffrey Kullgren, research scientist at the University of Michigan and poll director, said in a statement.


The poll surveyed 2,657 adults aged 50 to 80 nationwide, including 551 from Michigan.

Older adults who said their physical or mental health condition is fair or poor were more likely to report victimization, according to the poll. About 75 percent of adults between 50 and 80 who were scammed over the past two years also said that it had an impact on their financial, physical or mental well-being. 

The poll found that those who make less than $60,000 per year were more likely to be targeted by scammers, 

“Anything that makes you more vulnerable, whether it’s physical vulnerabilities or cognitive vulnerabilities, or emotional vulnerabilities has been related to a higher likelihood of getting scammed,”  said Peter Lichtenberg, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, who was not involved in the poll. 

It's not just older Americans at risk. Data from the Federal Trade Commission shows that Americans under the age of 60 are 86 percent more likely to report losing money to online scams than older adults. 

According to an Internet Crime Report by the FBI, adults between the ages of 50 and 59 reported $1.8 billion in losses due to scams in 2022. Those over 60 reported $3.1 billion in losses. Nationwide, an estimated $10.3 billion was lost due to scams. 

Michigan ranked third among states with 13,622 scam victims in 2022, according to the FBI report.


To help fight scams, Lichtenberg created the Successful Aging Through Financial Empowerment (SAFE) program, a series of education resources for older adults about financial exploitation. 

SAFE offers free one-on-one financial coaching, seminars and workshops that includes experts who provide information about financial health, and additional resources. 

One of the program’s main focuses is discouraging people from answering the phone for unsaved numbers. 

“The fact is, if you answer the phone and engage with (scammers) you’ve already increased your risk dramatically,” Lichtenberg said. “If you don’t answer the phone, they’re not going to call back so much, and you can get rid of them. “

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