MIRAMAR, FLA. (WSVN) - The FBI has described elder abuse in South Florida as a “serious and growing problem,” as they work to help prevent fraud from happening to the elderly.

Tuesday is World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day, and in 2020, Florida ranked second in the U.S. for crimes against seniors with over 9,000 cases.

“Elder abuse is a serious and growing problem in South Florida,” FBI Special Agent Jay Bernardo said. “Here we have a deep sizable population of elderly folks.”

Susan Parks said she fell victim to the sweetheart crime. She said she sent a man she never met her life savings, over $125,000.

“He said he was going to hold his breath until he heard back from me,” she said.

Gary Buckley, another victim, sent a woman claiming to be a porn star thousands of dollars.

“He sent her like $500 at one time, $300 another time,” Kristine Buckley, his daughter, said.

Finally, his grown children were able to convince him that his money was being stolen.

According to the FBI, computers make an already vulnerable group even more susceptible.

“They rarely ever meet these people,” Bernardo said. “It’s all done online. That’s a clue: if you’ve never had a chance to meet them in person.”

Other groups are helping the FBI protect the elderly from fraud.

Marty Jacobson, a retired police officer, oversees a volunteer group called Seniors vs. Crime. He has seniors in the organization that work to protect other seniors.

The seniors not only help report the fraud to the proper agencies, they also help people recoup funds. In 2020, they helped get back over $1.7 million.

However, most of the stolen money is never seen again, and the FBI has reminded the public to look out for their loved ones.

The FBI recommends checking on elderly loved ones to prevent fraud.

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