‘Senior Sleuth’ volunteers help Florida seniors steer clear of scams, recover money

(WSVN) - Two women in their 70s packing a punch, volunteering to protect their fellow seniors from scammers this holiday season. Here’s Karen Hensel with tonight’s 7 Investigates.

These silver-haired sleuths don’t carry a badge or a gun, but they do pack something else: experience.

Jeanne Dillon, “Senior Sleuth” volunteer: “I’ll be 75 shortly.”

Joyce King, “Senior Sleuth” volunteer: “I have to remember — 79.”

Karen Hensel: “You’re 79?”

Joyce King: “I am.”

Jeanne Dillon is a retired Miami Police detective.

Jeanne Dillon (on the phone): “Good morning, Seniors vs. Crime…”

Joyce King is a retired payroll supervisor.

The pair is among hundreds of volunteers across the state part of a project with the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

The seniors’ mission: standing guard against fraud.

Jeanne Dillon: “Checking addresses, checking backgrounds, checking if they are licensed, so there are a lot of things that relate back to just being a detective and investigating.”

Marty Jacobson oversees the Seniors vs. Crime offices in South Florida.

He’s also retired law enforcement.

Marty Jacobson, Deputy Regional Director: “We have retired police officers, accountants, executives from Fortune 500 companies.”

Jeanne Dillon (on the phone): “Any papers that you have, any contracts that you’ve signed…”

Volunteers spend hours working the phones to find solutions for seniors who have been scammed.

By the time seniors call in here, many are frustrated and desperate for help.

Joyce King: “Very disappointed and angry people. No one is calling them. No one is doing anything.”

A common tactic fraudsters use to lure seniors: loneliness.

Jeanne Dillon: “Someone calls them on the phone, and they want someone to talk to, and before they know it, they’ve been fooled.”

So these ladies, flip the script, working to get back what scammers have taken.

Last year alone, the state’s “Senior Sleuths” worked 1,900 cases of reported fraud, resulting $1.7 million in recoveries.

Joyce King: “It is so good to make that phone call. We finally, finally have gotten you some money.”

There are times the seniors are even sent in undercover.

Marty Jacobson: “It would be similar to taking grandma or granny from the Beverly Hillbillies and placing her undercover. She’s not packing a gun, but she’s got an attitude.”

An important crime-fighting weapon when you consider the Federal Trade Commission lists Florida at number 2 in the country for fraud and identity theft complaints, so this holiday season, be on alert.

When it comes to deliveries, beware of bogus texts or emails asking you to click a link to update shipping preferences.

It’s one way thieves try to steal personal information, and with more people shopping online due to the pandemic, keep an eye out for fake websites that may look legit.

And speaking of the pandemic,  watch out for COVID cons.

The Florida Attorney General says, “Never send money or financial information to anyone offering a COVID-19 vaccine or claiming the ability to expedite the process.”

We all know 2020 has been a rough year, so don’t let scammers make it any worse. We have links filled with tips on how not to get scammed down below, and as for those “Senior Sleuths,” the program is free for seniors in Florida, and you can bet the volunteers will be working the phones well into 2021.

Seniors vs Crime

Florida Attorney General Consumer Alerts

FL AG Holiday Consumer Protection Guide

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information

FBI Scams and Safety Information

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center


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