THERE IS HELP FOR OCALA SENIORS

Seniors vs. Crime Project – Second of a Two-Part Series

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Posted September 15, 2022 | By Eadie Sickler

Ocala (Marion County) is in Region 4 of the five regions within Florida’s Seniors vs. Crime Project, a special program of the Florida Attorney General’s Office, in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies. In addition to Marion County, the region includes these counties: Hamilton, Baker, Nassau, Columbia, Duval, Suwanee, Lafayette, Gilchrist, Union, Bradford, Clay, St. John’s, Dixie, Alachua, Putnam, Flagler, Levy, Volusia, Citrus, Lake, Seminole, Sumter, Orange, Osceola, and Brevard.

In 2021, Region 4 directly assisted 8,492 Florida seniors. In Region 4 alone, there were 613 new cases with a recovery of nearly $2 million. The program’s volunteers, known as “Senior Sleuths,” provided over 22,000 hours of free services. There are over 32 offices throughout the state and over 100 “Senior Sleuths”.

In December 2018, and also in February 2022, the Ocala Seniors vs. Crime staff was recognized by the Ocala Police Department with a Distinguished Group Award.

The list of cases includes such things as defective roofs, landscaper issues, unapproved construction, ambulance fee overcharges, cruises, ruined vacation plans, extended warranties, faulty flooring, new appliance issues, identity theft, collection agency issues, computer purchases, vacuums, plumbing, home security systems, hearing aids, warranties, and bullet supplies. So, do not be afraid to ask for help with your issue.

All recouped money goes directly to the complainant, and the service is free.

Doug Hart, manager of the Ocala Senior vs. Crime office, said, “People seem to have a lack of awareness about being careful with all contacts, which is vitally important. If concerned, call our Senior vs. Crime office. We get cases across the board.”

Hart listed these helpful resources and tips for seniors:

  1. Report ID Theft to credit bureaus and banks, law enforcement, Social Security Administration, Postal Service, Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General’s Office, as it applies.
  2. Order your free credit reports once a year from the following:
  3. Equifax, PO Box 105873, Atlanta, Georgia, 30348-5873. Phone 800-685-1111
  4. Experian, PO Box 949, Allen, Texas 75013-0949. Phone 800-397-3742
  5. Trans Union, PO Box 0390, Springfield, Pennsylvania 19064-0390. Phone 800-916-8800
  6. Shred unwanted mail offers.
  7. Remove your mail promptly from mailbox.
  8. Use the post office to send mail.
  9. Report all lost or stolen credit/debit cards immediately.
  10. Read (even the fine print) before you sign!
  11. NEVER give out bank account, Social Security, or personal information, especially over the telephone.
  12. NEVER disclose your PIN numbers.
  13. DO NOT carry your Social Security card, etc.
  14. BE CAREFUL to whom you give Power of Attorney and who you have as a co-signer on any accounts.
  15. Obtain at least three written estimates on any work you plan to have done.
  16. Check with your Better Business Bureau or other government agency to make sure a contractor is reliable.
  17. Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured (visit myfloridalicense.com).
  18. Make sure all required permits are obtained.

Hart explained the Senior vs. Crime program will first gather information, try to get both sides of the story, and act as mediator trying to bring resolve to the issue. If the office is unable to resolve the matter, a referral may be suggested to another agency, depending on the situation. Medical billing issues about money can be addressed, but not medical care issues. Seniors vs. Crime will not deal with an issue involving medical malpractice. Almost all civil cases can be handled by the senior group. Issues they will not accept include criminal cases, divorces, any case where a client is represented by an attorney, any case already in the court system, if there is an acceptable peer review agency involved, or if the case has already gone through the courts.

Seniors vs. Crime is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions are welcomed and are deductible for federal income tax purposes.

The local office of the Seniors vs. Crime Project is located at the Ocala Police Department, 402 S. Pine Ave., Ocala, 34471. It is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone 352-873-6377. The Florida Region 4 website is ocala@svcregion4.com.

The website of Seniors vs. Crime Project should be used to (1) make a complaint, (2) volunteer, (3) ask for a presentation for your group, (4) additional information. The website is www.seniorsvscrime.com.

Harden said a newly released book from Florida General Attorney Ashley Moody, “Savvy Consumers Can Stop Fraud: A Guide for Seniors’’, is available free, from the attorney general’s office. Phone 1-866-966-7726 (1-866-9-NO-SCAM) or go online to www.MyFloridaLegal.com (http://www.MyFloridaLegal.com)

Harden added that persons interested in joining the Seniors vs. Crime program can apply online at www.SeniorsvsCrime.com (http”//www.SeniorsvsCrime.com) or request a form by calling 1-800-203-3099.