Florida’s work to stop crimes against seniors continues

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Leslie Sapp, a Vietnam veteran, was the victim of a scammer. (Credit: WINK News)

Frustrated, angry and embarrassed. That’s how a Vietnam veteran felt after he fell victim to a scam.

The scammer was preying on seniors in need of money, finding a way to make them believe they would get paid for a job but instead taking advantage of them.

Leslie Sapp, 70, has had his share of challenges. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and lost 80% of his belongings in Hurricane Irma.

“You know, I’m doing without TV. I’m doing without a lot of things.”

So when an ad popped up on his phone promising to make him money as a “mystery shopper,” he jumped at the opportunity.

“I thought I’ll give it a try to see if I can make some money. Trying to save up enough for a new car.”

But he had to settle for a Vespa because the money-making opportunity turned out to be a con job that cost him more than a thousand dollars.

“I felt mad as hell. Especially when you don’t have any recourse, there’s no way to channel the anger.”

Sapp never went to police, but on Thursday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody urged senior victims of all crimes to come forward.

“If you feel you’ve been victimized, there are folks in our community that want to help you, that are volunteers and want to help you get your money back.”

Moody was in Naples on Thursday to highlight details of the 2020 Seniors vs. Crime Annual Report. Her “Seniors vs. Crime” initiative involves senior volunteers helping other seniors to recover money lost in frauds and scams.

The state is also working with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

“Partnering with ‘Seniors vs. Crime’ will allow our victims here in Collier County to have the volunteer support to gain restitution if they have lost to this crime,” said Sheriff Kevin Rambosk.

Sheriffs’ offices can refer victims to “Seniors vs. Crime” once it’s reported. Moody said the program has recovered more than $3 million for seniors over three years.

The just-released 2020 Seniors vs. Crime Annual Report shows nearly $1.7 million in total refunds, savings and recoveries for older Floridians.

Other highlights from the report:

  • Senior Sleuths directly assisted more than 11,000 Florida seniors during 2020;
  • Total savings to seniors who utilized Seniors vs. Crime services amounted to $1,690,958;
  • The project provided crime prevention training to more than 4,600 people, including information being sent out in more than 90 printed media articles, nearly 100 television events and approximately 530 social media posts regarding services offered through Seniors vs. Crime; and
  • Senior Sleuth volunteers dedicated more than 11,400 hours of free assistance to Florida seniors.

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