Scams targeting older adults called 'crime of the century'

Schemes targeting older adults have become so common a national advocacy group is calling it "the crime of the 21st century," releasing a list of top 10 senior scams.

Among them were ploys that surfaced in South Florida last year: fraudsters claiming to be Medicare representatives in order to steal personal information, and the "grandparent scam," in which a caller claiming to be a grandchild asks a senior to wire money for an emergency.

The National Council on Aging said elders are more likely to be victims, particularly in tough economic times, "because they're seen as having a steady income due to Social Security," said Ramsey Alwin, director of the council's economic security initiative, which compiled the list.

Verified or suspicious elderly exploitation incidents reported through Florida's abuse hotline increased 15 percent statewide over two years, with 3,329 in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Cases in Palm Beach County went up 21 percent, to 272 cases last year, while those in Broward declined slightly, with 314 cases.

Broward State Attorney Michael Satz, whose office has 96 pending senior financial exploitation cases, says perpetrators are most likely to be friends and family members. "When you are older, you are looking for someone to trust," he said.

For the complete top 10 list of scams, go to ncoa.org or call the the abuse hotline at 800-962-2873.

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