PINELLAS COUNTY - Last month Florida's crime fighting senior sleuths were in the spotlight when Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist sponsored a resolution before the Florida Cabinet to honor The Seniors vs. Crime Project. The project helps victims of fraud and provides seniors with information on ways to keep themselves and others from becoming the victims of con artists.
As part of November's Seniors vs. Crime Month, Crist introduced a new brochure, "Smart Consumers Can Stop Fraud - A Guide for Seniors". Topics included in the brochure are: telemarketing fraud, identity theft, price gouging and prescription drug pricing.
The seniors vs. Crime program was launched in 1989 to give seniors who have the time and wherewithal to fight fraud the chance to help other seniors. Con artists and unethical businesses that cheat the elderly should beware as volunteers have even gone undercover to expose unfair business practices. An aged consumer mistaken for an easy target may well be a savvy sleuth working for the Attorney General's office.
Mary Porter, the office manager for the Pinellas Park storefront says, "Because of an increase in crimes against the elderly, this project was set up to assist those who feel they were taken advantage of financially because of their age. It is strictly run by volunteers."
Porter encourages the elderly to ask for help if they have been wronged. "If they feel they have no other recourse for their mistreatment by unscrupulous business people, they should contact us. They can come to one of our 3 storefronts and sign a request for assistance which allows us to work for them, and for the investigation procedures to begin."
Porter says that the volunteers keep the work they do and who they do it for as confidential as possible. "Our offices are professionally run and the volunteers maintain confidentiality throughout the investigation process. We are sensitive to the fact that seniors who have been scammed are often embarrassed."
According to Porter, "We've found that most seniors are hesitant to come forward after being scammed mainly because they fear family members will think them unable to take care of their responsibilities any longer."
The crime fighting volunteers, called senior sleuths, are a reliable and available resource for the elderly. Based in storefronts throughout the state, most storefronts work in tandem with city and county law enforcement. They save police time by helping other seniors avoid and identify con artists. Often the senior sleuths are successful in exposing the cons to law enforcement and getting the senior's money back.
Concerning the hard working volunteers, Porter states, "Our payment is the satisfaction we feel when we help someone solve their problem and they receive a refund."
The new brochure, "Smart Consumers Can Stop Fraud - A Guide for Seniors," providing tips and information to help prevent crimes against seniors is available in both English and Spanish can be downloaded from the special Senior Floridians page at www.myfloridalegal.com. Copies can be obtained at any of the 24 Seniors vs. Crimes Storefronts located across Florida. To obtain a list of the Storefront locations or learn more about the program, visit www.seniorsvscrime.com. Clearwater area residents can contact the senior sleuths at any of three Pinellas County storefronts:
623 Tarpon Avenue
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
7780 60th Street N
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
330 5th St N
St Petersburg, FL 33731
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