Not long after a resident at Sunset Meadows was scammed out of $400, officials there held a meeting to warn senior citizens against the threat the financial exploitation.
According to Housing Authority Supervisor Janette Harris, a woman approached an unsuspecting Sunset Meadows resident asking for rent money and got it.
"A lot of the residents are very good about not giving out their personal information," she said. "But some of them are so trusting."
Now the home to many Craig senior citizens regularly shows residents how to prevent financial fraud through an AARP ElderWatch program.
A recent demonstration informed residents about telemarketing scams. A presenter from the office of Attorney General Ken Salazar warned residents not to give out crucial personal information such as credit card numbers and social security numbers over the telephone. Currently Sunset Meadows keeps updated ElderWatch postings in the lobby, which keep residents informed on various methods of identity protection against fraud.
Salazar on Friday visited a Steamboat Springs crowd to promote the program and to prompt the state to do a better job at protecting the rights of the elderly.
"From now on, don't give anybody any money," he told a gathering of about 80 people, including senior citizens, law enforcement officials and politicians. "I can think of nothing worse than seniors' dignity robbed from them. That's about a criminal thing as can happen."
Salazar recounted tales of senior fraud, one in which a woman spent almost $500,000 to allegedly pay for taxes for false Canadian lottery winnings.
Salazar's own father wrote 20 to 30 checks a month to people soliciting money, he said.
"We knew the most vulnerable people to be victimized are seniors and we asked what can we do to better that," he said. "We need better laws."
No-call legislation drafted under Salazar's leadership reduces potential telemarketing scams to seniors, he said. The state levies an additional $10,000 fine for telemarketing scams that are directed toward the elderly.
And district attorneys are asked to impose the maximum sentences in cases that target seniors, Salazar said.
Emphasizing prevention of financial exploitation is important because "once fraud occurs most of the time the victims don't get their money back," he said.
"An ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure," Salazar stressed.
In a scenario that ended last year, senior citizen and Craig woman Violette Bartlett was robbed of money from her son, John Bartlett, who later died in prison. In addition to allegedly physically and mentally abusing his mother, John Bartlett embezzled more than $136,000 from the 100-year-old woman.
The AARP ElderWatch program offers a hotline, consumer alerts, collects statistics on financial elderly abuse and provides educational materials.
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.