LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An estimated one in five seniors has fallen victim to a financial scam, with only a fraction of such incidents being reported to authorities, Los Angeles County prosecutors said Monday.
KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports as part of an public outreach and education effort, the L.A County District Attorney’s Office is teaming up with Rotary Club of Los Angeles, also known as LA5, to train volunteer speakers who will visit community centers, nursing homes and other locations to educate seniors about common scams and prevention tips.
With a reported 70 percent of U.S. wealth belonging to seniors, officials say unscrupulous predators often target the elderly, whose physical and cognitive limitations, trusting dispositions and loneliness are often factors that make them particularly susceptible to financial crimes.
Speaking to the media at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown L.A., District Attorney Jackie Lacey shared a personal account about her own mother, who fell prey to scam artists who told her one of her grandchildren had been jailed overseas and needed money wired immediately.
“Financial abuse is especially harmful because, for many seniors, recovering from a large financial loss can be almost impossible,” Lacey said. “Through this program, we aim to stop financial abuse by arming seniors with the knowledge necessary to avoid predators.”
Lacey said the scam artist who swindled her mother used social media to gather information about her and called her, pretending to be a member of law enforcement.
“The man on the other end said he was a police officer. He told my mother to wire mother overseas to get her grandson out of jail. He also told my mother not to tell anyone. My mother did what she was told,” Lacey said.
“The crook who talked to my mother got information off of Facebook. My nephew actually had been traveling. And she was still on the phone with the crook – he had called to make sure she wired the money and called back and was very bold. I actually talked with him. And, we were lucky. We got the money back,” she said.
The man who made the call, however, remains at large.
Officials say elderly residents who have significant assets should screen their phone calls through voicemail, shred all financial documents before throwing them out, and never to wire money to a stranger, even if they claim to be law enforcement.
The 3,000-member LA5 will also work with other local nonprofit organizations to distribute printed materials to home-bound seniors with the shared goal of deterring financial abuse against the elderly, according to Lacey’s office.