With Europe's lowest fertility rate, and some 20% of its 10.6 million inhabitants over the age of 65, Portugal is aging fast. Bad news for the country, but apparently a boon to criminals, who see the elderly as prime targets. Crime against senior citizens, financial scams in particular, has registered a sharp rise since the beginning of the economic crisis, in 2008.

But now, as national elections approach, lawmakers have decided to grant extra protection to those with a few extra years. A new law taking effect this week will consider as an aggravating factor if the victim of a crime is older than 65, the Lisbon daily Diário de Notícias reports.

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Old and worried in Lisbon. Photo: Pedrosimoes7

For robbery, criminals now risk a maximum prison sentence of 10 years if their victim is old, up from the three-year maximum otherwise.

To illustrate the situation faced by the elderly in Portugal, the newspaper reports on a case earlier this year, in which a mother and her daughter, aged 52 and 30, scammed an 81-year-old man. The two took advantage of the victim's "extremely poor condition" to steal 5.3 million euros ($5.9 million), using a falsified proxy statement to transfer money out of his bank account and insurance policies.

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-Analysis-

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