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A GAME WITH AN AIM Senior centers use ‘investment fraud bingo’ to enlighten residents about scams

PHOTO COURTESY OF PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF BANKING AND SECURITIES An investment fraud bingo game was played this year at Garden Spot Village in New Holland, Lancaster County. The game is designed to educate seniors about financial scams and fraud.

Nancy Bullivant, executive director of Westminster Village in Allentown, plans to bring the “investment fraud bingo” game to seniors at the personal care facility to help the elderly spot scams and prevent fraud against them.

Nancy Bullivant, executive director of Westminster Village in Allentown, plans to bring the “investment fraud bingo” game to seniors at the personal care facility to help the elderly spot scams and prevent fraud against them.

“They all love bingo here, and lately residents have been receiving calls from people representing the IRS saying, ‘You owe the IRS money, and there is a summons against you,’ ” Bullivant said.

Investment fraud bingo – developed by the state government and AARP – is a bingo game designed to educate senior citizens on the latest financial scams and help them identify red flags to protect them from predators. It has been around for several years – for example, it is played at fraud awareness programs for seniors in Schuylkill County – but there are many assisted living facilities and personal care homes in eastern Pennsylvania that are only just becoming aware of it.

Now, Bullivant and other senior facility directors are taking action and introducing the game to their residents, saying it will be well received as a fun, learning tool for the elderly, who often are targeted for fraud.

Bullivant called the game “both educational and interactive … a good thing when you have these scams in the news where people come to the house saying they are with the gas company, but really they are out to steal from you.”

The game is a program of the AARP and the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, which notes that $2.9 billion annually are lost nationally because of investment fraud. A significant portion of fraud cases involves elderly Americans who may be perceived as being vulnerable, socially isolated and having cognitive impairment.

Brian LaForme and Tina Kotsalos of the Department of Banking and Securities said seniors also are targeted because of the perception that they have more wealth than most people with such things as lifelong savings accounts, pensions, retirement accounts and other financial investments.

Kotsalos, director of investor education and consumer outreach, said the bingo cards have short, direct messages to inform seniors of the types of scams. Bingo players use the cards to match the different types of fraud with the definitions.

She said that while fraud bingo has been around for several years, it is only in the last few months that it is available for download on her department’s website. Senior facilities can have representatives of the department or AARP host the event or do it themselves by going online to print the game cards.

Jennifer Drake of the United Disabilities Services Foundation said investment fraud bingo is played during the twice-annual “Scam Jam” fraud awareness event held in Schuylkill County towns the last several years.

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