JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Police say an 82-year-old Jacksonville woman was scammed out of $8,500 by two men.
"They dressed as fine as can be," says Officer Melissa Bujeda, Public Information Officer for the Jacksonville Sherrif's Office. "They appeared legitimate to her."
Bujeda says the two men knew everything about their target, and
showed her a gold badge when they knocked on her door. They claimed she was the key to cracking down on identity theft, and offered her a $1,000 reward for her help.
"She actually got in the car with them, drove to the bank, and withdrew the money."
Hours later, after the men didn't return, police say the woman made a sickening discovery.
"They somehow switched the envelopes and when she looked inside they were filled with paper."
Private Investigator David Hodges of Fine Tooth Comb Investigations tells Action News he believes senior scams are on the rise, but few victims call police for help.
"The more wealthy they are the more embarrassed they are, and less likely they are to report they've been scammed."
Bujeda confirms police believe there could be many more victims that haven't come forward.
"They're embarrassed to tell their friends, they're embarrassed to tell their family, and they're definitely embarrassed to call police because they don't want to lose their independence."
Scammers aren't always strangers, however.
Action News was the first to report that local attorney Cynthia Nichols was arrested for exploiting one of her senior clients out of $100,000 last Friday. After that, we received a dozen calls from viewers reporting all kinds of scams against their aging parents.
Hodges says there's a reason the elderly are easy targets. He says they were raised trusting others, leaving their doors unlocked and windows down. They are also often intimidated by technology. Many of them trust people they hardly know with personal information at stores and at the bank.
"The criminals now know the pin, and they know where the bank is. All they've got to do is get the card."
But Officer Bujeda says thieves can be stopped. She suggests telling senior loved ones about this story, and convincing them to call a trusted friend or family member before helping a stranger. Most of all, if something seems wrong, Bujeda says they should not keep it a secret from police.
"We can't catch them unless they report it to us. They shouldn't be embarrassed. They can stand up for themselves and we're going to help them."
Anyone who has any information in regards to the identity of the suspect is asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500
or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS