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Seniors vs Crime: Who We Are. What We Do

By Judy Harden

Seniors vs Crime is a non-profit organization that operates as a Special Project of the Florida Attorney General’s Office. Founded in 1989, Seniors vs Crime has been a Special Project of every Florida Attorney General since it began operation. There is no charge for our services.

Seniors vs Crime works in partnership with the various law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Florida, educating seniors on how not to become a victim of a scam or fraud. However, if it happens, or if they experience a problem with a service provider or contractor not completing a job (A new roof that is still leaking. Flooring that is buckling. Car issues, etc.), Seniors vs Crime will help walk them through the process of mediating the problem; either getting their money back or getting the job completed to the consumer’s satisfaction.

Most area offices are located within a law enforcement agency and are staffed by volunteers more commonly referred to as “Sleuths,” who assist persons involved in civil disputes with contractors and other businesses or individuals, or who may have otherwise been defrauded or taken advantage of financially.

The primary goal of the Seniors vs Crime Project is to reduce the victimization of senior citizens who are often targeted for specific crimes or scams based on their age. The project accomplishes this goal by providing various educational and crime prevention programs to senior citizen groups; investigating complaints and seeking restitution for seniors in appropriate instances and by providing investigative agencies with senior volunteers to assist them with specific investigations.

Why Target Seniors?

Most seniors are very trusting. They grew up in a different generation where a handshake meant something and your word was your bond. Scammers feel that many seniors don’t work and therefore have a lot of money to invest. Seniors may be lonely – widow/widower, or have no close family, or no family at all, and become lonely and looking for friendship or companionship. Many seniors are not versed in the new generation of technology and its use, making them feel isolated. They are easily befriended.

Who are the Seniors vs Crime (SVC) Project volunteers?

We refer to volunteers as a “Senior Sleuth.” Senior Sleuths represent seniors who have retired from all walks of life, ranging from homemakers to rocket scientists – office workers, housewives, factory workers, bus drivers, secretaries, accountants, executives, retired attorneys, retired private investigators, retired civilian workers, retired law enforcement personnel, and a number of other professions. Statewide, every year volunteers contribute more than 35,000 man-hours assisting fellow seniors.

Seniors who volunteer with the SVC Project have four basic requirements – 1) they are age 50 or older, however younger volunteers are accepted, 2) they must have a genuine desire to help others, 3) they must have no criminal history, and of course, 4) they MUST agree to hold Seniors vs Crime Project information strictly confidential, this includes the personal information of senior clients and fellow sleuths.

The victim must make the request.

The services of the SVC Project must be requested by the victim. The project cannot respond to suggestions that a third party has a problem and should be contacted. Victims may be assisted in filing their complaint by family, friends, or Power of Attorneys, but the victim must sign the Request for Assistance form before assistance can be rendered,

If you are involved in a civil situation and you request the assistance of SVC, the Senior Sleuth assigned to your case will do everything possible to reach a settlement without cost to you and without public or family embarrassment. Senior Sleuths are successful in a high percentage of cases.

The SVC project handles thousands of cases for seniors every year. Since 2001 project offices have handled more than 39,000 cases, and recovered over $16,000,000 in real dollars plus over $12,000,000 in realized gain for Florida seniors. That’s a total of $28,000,000 for Florida seniors that would have otherwise been lost. The Alachua County Office has recovered over $2 million dollars to date. Money that went back to the consumer, at no additional cost to the consumer.

To learn more about the Seniors vs Crime Project, file an online complaint, request a speaker, or volunteer,

visit us at www.SeniorsVsCrime.com.

Judy Harden is the Deputy Director, Region IV, Seniors vs Crime.

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