Shirley Brewster, 88, doesn't remember giving more than $40,000 away to scam artists pretending to be contractors who told her she needed work on her house, a life savings she may never get back.
According to the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, Brewster is just one of a growing population of vulnerable victims. One in five seniors has been the victim of a financial crime, and many probably don't report it.
And with the highest concentration of wealth in the elderly and the highest concentration of seniors in California, they're a prime target for smooth-talking criminals.
"When someone you don't know asks for money, even when if it is on behalf of a loved one, just say no," said L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
After her own mother fell victim to a scam when a caller told her to wire money to bail a relative out of jail, Lacey spearheaded a public awareness campaign, along with the Rotary Club.
Volunteers will go to senior centers, nursing homes and other places seniors gather to give presentations about how to recognize and avoid scams, as well as pass out literature to home-bound seniors like Brewster.
"We have never caught the person who did this to my mother, and I'm confident that he's out there doing it again and again and again," said Lacey.
Scammers can pretend to be caregivers, government employees and salespeople. Even family members defraud the elderly.