By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
SUN CITY CENTER — According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 25 million Americans are victims of fraud each year. As the fastest growing segment of the population, and one often with considerable resources, seniors are rapidly becoming a prime target for fraud — and in always new and ever-changing ways. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, seniors are mostly likely to have a “nest egg” of funds, own their own homes and have excellent credit ratings, all things that make them attractive to con artists.
The FBI goes on to say that people who grew up in the 1930s, 40s and 50s were generally raised to be polite and trusting — traits that are exploited by thieves and con artists who know that their victims, due to their upbringing, often have a hard time saying no or even simply hanging up the phone on someone.
While the FBI isn’t advocating a less polite posture among seniors, it is heavily invested and interested in helping seniors to be equipped to recognize possible scams and to avoid becoming the victims of crimes in which they could lose everything.
On Tuesday, February 28, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Sun Towers Retirement Community will host the Senior Fraud Protection and Awareness Expo at the Borini Theater in the Kings Point Clubhouse.
“This event is open to all seniors, not just the residents of Kings Point,” said Debbie Caneen of Sun Towers.
The expo will consist of 15-minute talks from experts ranging from special agents within the FBI, investigators from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, high-level administrators from state of Florida consumer protection agencies and attorneys from area law firms.
Each 15-minute session will focus on specific issues relating to senior fraud and crime — from insurance and financial scams to, appropriately enough, information about how to identify tax season scams and fraud. The sessions will also include recommendations for hiring in-home caregivers and will provide specific resources for seniors to contact should they feel they have been a victim of fraud.
According to the FBI, seniors are reluctant to report such crimes not only out of embarrassment, but also because they often simply don’t know who to call for help. The senior fraud expo will help seniors on both counts. Help is available and it is frequently just a phone call away.
The 15-minute sessions will run from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and will be followed by a light lunch. From 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., the morning’s experts will make time for individual questions and answers at all of the tables. It will be a rare and valuable opportunity for seniors to meet one-on-one with experts from county, state and federal agencies to ask questions and gain individualized information.
Sun City Center Community Resource Deputy Chris Girard will be on hand to open the expo. Deputy Girard, with an office at the Community Association building, is dedicated to fighting crime against seniors and to preventing seniors from becoming the victims of crime in the first place. He is the community’s full-time resource for information and assistance.
The Senior Consumer Fraud Protection and Awareness Expo will take place on Tuesday, February 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Borini Theater at the Kings Point Clubhouse, 1900 Clubhouse Drive, Sun City Center. The event is open to all area seniors.