Tallahassee Seniors Fight Crime

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January 17, 2007 5:53 pm

At the Tallahassee Senior Center, seniors are taking computer courses and learning how to protect themselves on the Internet. Good thing, because scam artists target vulnerable seniors and their money all the time.

"They're lonely, they want somebody to talk to and it gets their foot in the door, and once they have their foot in the door they rely on the person's sympathy, weaknesses, their blind spots, and hone in on it," said William Dunham, who frequently sees scams in his e-mail inbox.

Leila Doolittle admits seniors are vulnerable and too trusting.

"Some people lose everything they have and they do it before they know it, so you have to watch out for crime and telemarketers and everyone out to beat us."

Just this week an elderly woman told Tallahassee police a scammer cheated her out of thousands of dollars.

"A woman believed she was the recipient of a lottery out of Australia and unfortunately she has sent $50,000 over and over again to think she's gonna get her money," said SGT Bill Bierbaum of the Tallahassee Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit.

The Police Department and the Attorney General's Office provide volunteers at the Senior Center, assisting victims and potential victims who also fear shame.

"Seniors vs. Crime is here to be some place they can come, someone they can talk to about it, and sometimes we can save them money or get money back for them," said Tom Jones, an attorney who also volunteers on in the Seniors vs. Crime program.

It's very difficult to get your money back if you've been cheated over the phone or Internet, so before you buy anything look to see if they're asking for money in advance, asking for it to be sent overseas or through Western Union. Bierbaum says those can all be red flags.

Volunteers are on hand every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sometimes they can help solve problems right there. Other times they'll put you in touch with an investigator at the Police Department to look further into a scam.