CEO Michael Sattell of Ovation Communities works to prevent elder financial abuse | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

CEO Michael Sattell of Ovation Communities works to prevent elder financial abuse  


Michael Sattell is president and CEO at Ovation Communities, which operates senior living facilities in Downtown Milwaukee, but unlike most CEOs, he brings to his role a background in elder financial abuse.  

His experience as a certified fraud examiner and certified public accountant helps him look out for seniors who are vulnerable to exploitation by strangers or family members.  

“Financial abuse can take the form of anything from phone scams to deliberate intimidation and theft by those close to the elder,” said Sattell, who speaks annually to residents about what they can do to protect themselves. “There’s a whole gamut unfortunately with telephone and internet to the theft of personal information that goes on.”  

The greatest challenge is that many come from a generation that is very respectful and want to help people, he said. “Getting them to understand that they can just hang up the phone or they shouldn’t click on the link in an email that looks suspicious and inviting, it’s very difficult for them to say ‘no’.”  

One scammer posed as a grandchild and tried to target Sattell’s own mother-in- law: “Grandma, I’m in jail. I need you to wire money to me right away. People get duped into that really quickly,” Sattell said.  

Fraudsters, he said, can go online and get personal information about the elderly and their family so they know the grandchildrens’ names. “It’s insidious. It’s terrible.”  

But there are good resources offered by the Federal Trade Commission and Sattell has explained them in his discussions at Ovation Communities, where the average resident is 85 years old.  

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in ten seniors are victims of some form of elder abuse each year with reported annual financial losses of $4.1 billion. The average theft among older adults was $9,175.  

So much is underreported, Sattell said. “It’s more widespread than the statistics that have been gathered. It’s often very embarrassing and you don’t want to share it with anybody.”  

Sattell knows of people, not at Ovation, who have had their entire bank accounts drained. “We’ve been able to recover the money by calling their bank right away and freezing their credit. One individual actually gave blank checks to a fraudster.  

“A big lesson for our residents is to make sure to shred personal information and we can do that for them.”  

Advice he gives to residents is to “hang up the phone immediately and call us or someone you trust. And if it’s too good to be true, it probably is a scam.”  

Watch out, he said, for fraud perpetrated by a family member. “They attempt to steal from their grandparents or parents, rationalizing they have enough money. They’re not going to miss anything. Or they feel that the elder has never shown them any love. There could be drugs involved, gambling, debts.”  

The consequences of financial fraud are emotional distress. “Getting ripped off leads to a whole other host of victimizations. Our elders are already very vulnerable health-wise and this does not help them if they become a victim of financial abuse.”