In 1989, some of Florida’s most effective crime fighters were
unleashed through the creation of the Attorney General’s Seniors vs.
Crime Project. This Project, sponsored by my Office, allows seniors
to be actively involved in their own and their younger citizens' protection.
The volunteers, known as Senior Sleuths, (1) serve as eyes and ears
to inform my office of current issues affecting seniors, (2) educate
the public about scams and frauds, (3) assist law enforcement as actors
with undercover operations and (4) manage consumer cases referred by
my office or requested of the Project by other sources. These crime
fighters are responsible for recovering millions of dollars for
seniors who were intentional or unintentional victims of con artists
or honest businesses.
Volunteers work throughout the state in locations known as
Offices. More than 3,000 Senior Sleuth volunteers provide important assistance to the
state's crime fighting effort from those Offices or from the comfort
of their homes.
Unethical businesses and individuals may believe that their senior
target is helpless, when, in fact, the "target" may be working for
the Attorney General or local law enforcement in an undercover role.
Few volunteer opportunities permit this level of involvement for seniors in
their own protection.
I am proud to be a partner with these
outstanding citizens. Please give the Seniors vs. Crime Project a
chance to help with your consumer related complaint by calling
1-800-203-3099 or request help through their web site.Pam Bondi
Seniors vs. Crime: Need a cellphone or something smarter?
By Valerie Norton Fri, Jan 31, 2014 @ 4:56 pm
Seniors vs. Crime is a special project that uses the force of the Florida
Attorney General’s Office and volunteers to help educate and protect seniors
from harmful activity. On the first Tuesday of the month, we will highlight real
cases that could help you and your family avoid scams.
I usually write about scams affecting the elderly. Smartphones are not a scam,
but since this subject is brought up so often, our team thought I should go over
a few things.
The service you have at home is generally referred to as land-line service or,
in phone company jargon, POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). Cellular service
connects via a tower. A growing trend is to replace the traditional home phone
with a cellphone. But consider how good cell coverage is in your area and if
there is more than one user in the home. If there are two users and one goes to
the mall and takes the phone, there is no service at home.
Here are some questions to ask the service provider before you buy:
■ Is this phone for emergency service only?
■ How many calls do you anticipate receiving and placing?
■ Will you call locally or do you travel?
■ Do you use need access to email or text and Internet access?
Many carriers supply mobile service. Each has specific plans and devices.
■ Contracted services: These are traditional cellphone plans that typically have
a specific number of months; a specific number of minutes available per month; a
stated penalty for breaking the agreement; and specific features available to
Senior discounts may be available, so don’t be hesitant to ask.
■ Prepaid services: These typically have no contract; phones are purchased
up-front, many at a discount; and minutes are paid for in advance (which you
typically lose if you don’t use them all in the time period). The phones will do
almost all of what other cellphones do.
■ Free program: Lifeline Service is available to qualified low-income users only
— those with an income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty
guidelines, or who participate in a government assistance program such as
Medicaid. Service is for a specific number of minutes at no cost.
Do you need a smartphone? Here are a few questions to ask.
■ Do you want a portable computer with you?
■ Do you want to be able to check email right away?
■ Do you want to be able to read a book, or watch a movie or TV show?
■ Do you want to take photos and share them?
■ Do you want to play games and music, compare prices, etc.?
■ Do you want a GPS system that can find places you need to go?
If you answered “No” to these, you may just need a cellphone only, which again
will at least make phone calls and text.
A WORD OF WARNING
When you buy a smartphone, it is locked into a specific service provider. If you
contract with one carrier, for example, and don’t re-up after two years, you
will not be able to use the phone with another carrier unless you pay a fee to
have it unlocked.
In most plans, you get the phone for free or at a reduced price. But remember,
if you leave the plan before your contract is up, you will pay a fine.
ESPECIALLY FOR SENIORS
For many seniors, typical cellphone plans offer too many bells and whistles.
Fortunately, many senior cell phone plans are available that fix costs and
provide a more reasonable number of features. Some of these are specifically
designated as Senior Plans or 65+ Plans. You will need to request these plans.
Also, there are prepaid phones that work well for seniors, with large,
easy-to-read numbers and great volume control.
NEW SCAM ALERT
AARP has put out a scam alert called a “one ring” scam. Scammers call and hang
up after one ring. Their hope is that you see the missed call and call back to
find out who they are. The return call costs $9 per minute and it starts as soon
as the phone connects. The charge gets added to your phone bill.
The key to being safe is being educated and aware. You can contact Seniors vs.
Crime if you have questions about scams by calling (904) 721-6516 or (800)
203-3099, or by going online to Seniorsvscrime.com and clicking on the “Request
Help” link on the left.
Writer, Valerie Norton, SVC
Seniors Vs. Crime Project
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