An Otsego Place resident was in a rush to get to the grocery store in Storm Lake, Iowa. When stopped by a community staffer, he said he needed to wire $25 in order to get his $25,000 cash winnings.

Another time, a credit card company called a female resident asking for her Social Security number. The caller told her there were suspicious charges to her credit card.

Debbie Klatt, administrator of Otsego Place, received several of these reports from her residents when she realized that scammers were systematically calling the telephone numbers of her residents with various scam scenarios and asking for money. She immediately issued a community-wide memo warning residents not to talk to the scammers.

“We instructed them to hang up, then contact me or their son or daughter,” Klatt says. “It was truly amazing. The residents have their own individual telephone numbers through two different phone companies. It was like the scammers had a list of numbers. We don’t publish a directory. We do have a list of their names and apartment numbers for the security system in the front entrance,” she says.

Whether the scammers used the security list or not, scams against the elderly are on the rise in the United States. More than 7. 3 million older Americans—one out of five adults over the age of 67—have been victimized by a financial swindle, according to a recent survey completed by the Investor Protection Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

Older adults comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population but represent 35 percent of all fraud victims, according to Seniors above the age of 85 are at the highest risk for financial abuse, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Residents of assisted living communities can be targeted since the average age of a resident is 86.9 years old. Financial abuse is committed by both
strangers and family members through common and, in many cases, age-old scenarios.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable, and the con artists know it, NCOA says. Seniors are more likely to have savings, own their own home, and have good credit. In addition, people who grew up during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were taught to be polite so they have a hard time saying “no” or hanging up the phone. These seniors are also less likely to report the crime, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In addition, seniors’ cognitive capabilities can be diminished by medications or dementia.

Awareness is the main form of protecting seniors from these types of crime. Recently, NCOA developed “Steps to Avoiding Scams,” a toolkit designed to educate seniors about how to protect themselves from financial abuse and scams.

The toolkit was developed so that a 60-minute presentation could be delivered by a facilitator. The toolkit consists of a training guide and fully scripted Power Point presentation for workshop facilitators.

Assisted living providers should consider reviewing the presentation slides and the script because it is written for seniors living in their own homes. Information in the kit includes the top 10 scams, tips to avoid scams, and resources for reporting scams.

Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors

1. Health care/Medicare/health insurance fraud
2. Counterfeit prescription drugs
3. Funeral and cemetery scams
4. Fraudulent anti-aging products
5. Telemarketing
6. Internet fraud
7. Investment schemes
8. Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams
9. Sweepstakes and lottery scams
10. The grandparent scam
Source NCOA

There is also a handbook for distribution to seniors or other workshop attendees.