I just spent a year exploring the twilight world of older people targeted by scammers. Now here’s what drew me in — something small. My father-in-law is in his mid-80s, and when we visit, his phone is ringing every 10 minutes or so with someone trying to pick his pocket one way or another, from subscriptions and refinancing that he doesn’t need to full-on lying fraudsters. Well, it turns out that one ringing phone was just the tip of a massive problem. By one estimate, people 65 and older get defrauded out of $37 billion a year. Now Americans of all ages and all tax brackets are targeted by fraudsters. Yet older people tend to lose more money and have less time to recover their financial footing. There are a lot of things at work here. People 65 and older hold an enormous amount of the household wealth in America, and scammers know that’s where the money is. Many older people live alone, a risk factor in itself. But here’s what really floored me: Researchers who studied this say that changes in the brain as part of the normal, healthy aging process might be making many seniors into softer targets for scammers. Now I’ve spent a year talking to experts, including medical researchers, and met concerned families across the country and scam victims, like Judy. That is $166,000 in department store gift cards she was coerced to buy and turn over to a scammer. “I was nervous, but at that point, I was under his spell. ” “He said, ‘Do it,” I did it. He could have told me to stand on my head in the middle of the street, and I probably would have done it.” “I can’t imagine what I was thinking. I was like a robot.” We’re looking into this topic in our special series “Brains and Losses: The Bottom Line on Aging and Financial Vulnerability.” You can check out the whole series and find resources on this topic at Marketplace.org.