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Florida researchers developing tool to screen seniors for vulnerability to scams

Image: Montana Department of Justice
Image: Montana Department of Justice

An older person's susceptibility to scams often goes undetected until it's too late and they have already been victimized. 

Now a University of Central Florida researcher is teaming up with others at the University of Florida and University of Miami to solve that problem.

Nichole Lighthall is a UCF assistant professor with a doctorate in gerontology. She says the team's scientific aims are finding the risk factors for scams, fraud and misinformation among older adults, including seniors with mild cognitive impairment.

"We will take this scientific data and use it to develop, hopefully, a screening tool for older adults to catch vulnerability to scams and fraud before people are actually defrauded. Presently, this does not exist," she said.

Doctors, nurses and social workers would use their tool kit and alert the seniors themselves and family members to the risk.

The research project is funded through a four-year, $743,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health.

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.