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It’s Never Too Late To Be Savvy Seniors, Elude Scammers

I n case you wonder if your fellow residents actually experience the kinds of scams we highlight each week, they absolutely do.

April was unlucky for some residents who became victims of fraud. Here’s a quick look at a few recent cases that occurred in April, here in Volusia County, and they cost victims thousands of dollars.

Rental Scams: In late April, the owner of an unoccupied Deltona home discovered strangers were living in her home, and she wants to pursue criminal charges. Turns out, a woman unknowingly rented the house from a couple who fraudulently told her they were realtors working for a realty company. The occupant produced a money order and lease showing she was officially a renter.

When confronted with the news that the couple doesn’t work for the realty company, the renter also wants to pursue charges. In this case, the realty company and the renter are negotiating a possible agreement to allow her to stay in the home for now.

Another April fraud case occurred in De- Bary, after a woman told deputies she believed she had leased a property from a Facebook Marketplace listing. However, the home’s property manager said his properties are never advertised on Facebook and she must have been scammed. Despite being told she had 48 hours to move out, she was cooperative and would like to pursue charges if a suspect can be found. She’s out $6,000 for this unfortunate charade.

Romance Scam: A female resident began chat- ting online in January with a man who told her he was 40, stationed in a West African country in the military and looking for love and business investors. They continued talking and a few weeks ago, he asked her to help him register his potential new business and pay for it. She did, for several thousand dollars.

Soon after, she attempted to send $250,000 to the man but thankfully a financial institution denied the transfer. She realized she had been scammed after family members convinced her. She wants to pursue criminal charges if a suspect is found.

Grandparents Scam: In late April, a male resident contacted us a day after receiving a phone call from a crying female who said she was his granddaughter. She said she was in jail after being involved in a bad car accident that injured a pregnant female, causing the woman to have a miscarriage. She was being charged with man-slaughter and needed money to pay bail.
She asked him to call her attorney, who stated she needed several thousand dollars. The victim complied, went to his bank, withdrew the money, and met a courier to send the cash. After realizing he also was victimized by a scammer, the resident wants to pursue charges.

These are heartbreaking tales of greedy criminals tricking victims in our own community into believing these stories and costing them thousands of dollars.
Criminals continue to target seniors with these scams. It’s very important that you rec- ognize these schemes—they can happen via phone calls, texts, or e-mails, and be very suspicious. For starters, if you don’t recognize a caller’s phone number, Don’t Answer!

Stop & Think: If someone calls or e-mails you out of the blue and offers a great deal, it’s probably not trustworthy. Ask someone you trust whether it sounds legitimate. Don’t be rushed or harassed into making a decision you’ll regret. Never give out your bank account or Social Security numbers, or any personal information, especially over the phone.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, here are some steps to take immediately, from the Florida Attorney General’s Office:

1) Contact law enforcement. File a police or sheriff’s report, depending on where you live. Include as much documentation as you can. Request a copy of the police report to provide creditors and credit reporting agencies who may request to see it. Call our non-emergency number: 386.248.1777.
2) Report the incident to the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus.
3) Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission —www.IdentityTheft.gov
4) Contact your banks or financial institutions. If you think your accounts have been compromised, close your accounts. Ask to be issued new account numbers if you open new accounts.
5) Myfloridalegal.com offers plenty of helpful consumer information including Consumer Alerts and Scams At A Glance.

Seniors Vs. Crime: You can contact Seniors vs. Crime—a volunteer organization created to help all adults (not just seniors) to avoid crime, scams and other types of fraud, and to help recover if you’ve been scammed. There’s an office in Volusia County and you can make an appointment.

Here’s how to reach them:
Seniors vs. Crime Volusia County Office: 724 Big Tree Road, Room 7, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, South Daytona, FL 32119.
Phone: 407.537.9509; 833.547.5662.
Office Hours: Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
E-mail: Volusia@svcproject.org website: seniorsvscrime.com ; 1.800.203.3099.

The old adage applies: If something – or someone sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I want you to stay safe and keep these reminders in mind to avoid falling for scams!

Stay smart and stay safe,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood