According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates among the elderly have increased by over 30% since 1999.
Some of the biggest increases in suicide rates have occurred in the Midwest and Northeast, in states like Kansas, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Vermont and New Hampshire.
While the CDC states there is no definitive cause for these increases, they have identified a pattern of stressors and life events that contribute heavily to many of these cases. Several of these stressors have to do with economic and housing instability, immediate crises, legal trouble, relationship problems, and health challenges.
These are problems that impact everyone, but the implications for seniors are often far greater than with other age groups. Seniors are extremely vulnerable in all of these areas, and in many cases, they are far less likely to bounce back from a major emotional or financial blow.
These are exactly the types of blows scammers are delivering to seniors each and every day.
The same anxieties the CDC identifies as major factors in the growing amount of self-harm and suicide cases in the United States are the tools scammers use to hook and completely destroy their victims.
They create relationship stress with dating scams. They create fake family crises with grandparent scams. They threaten legal action with IRS tax scams. They promise miracle cures and treatments through medical scams. And ultimately, they drain the savings of the financially vulnerable and create very real economic hardship for people who do not have the means to replace what was lost.
In the end, the fear, anxiety, and guilt victims feel when they realize what has happened is sometimes too much to bear. In some cases, the victims of senior scams are being driven to death.
The consequences of senior financial scams in reality are far more serious than stolen savings. When many seniors live in social isolation, struggle with illness and depression, and largely blame themselves for the actions of predators, we’re talking about a problem that is truly life-threatening.
And the problem is far from uniquely American. Seniors all over the world are falling prey to scam calls and wire transfer scams. In Japan, several seniors have killed themselves after being victimized by a scammer.
It is important to remember, both as a potential victim or someone who may one day witness someone get taken in by a scammer, that it is NEVER a victim’s fault when someone lies and steals from them. The ONLY one who has to answer for exploitation is the exploiter.
It is not your fault.
While reporting and regaining what was stolen may seem paramount, your first and immediate priority should always be assuring the health of the affected. Senior scams leave victims feeling embarrassed, alone, unsafe, unstable, and guilty.
If you or someone you love is taken advantage of by a senior scammer, please consider counseling, visiting a primary care physician, or locating a senior support group in your area. Get to know the warning signs of suicide and depression, and take immediate treatment action if you recognize them.
If you are in immediate distress and need emotional support, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org to chat with trained staff who CAN help you.