TITUSVILLE, Fla. - In Swan Lake, a peaceful long-time senior community in Titusville, cellphones seem to ring all day, but it's not friends and family calling.
Scam artists are calling, texting and emailing the senior residents several times a day.
Arletta Shepherd said she got a text from what appeared to be the 1-800 number for her Satellite TV provider offering to cut her bill in half.
"I know it by heart because I call it so much," Shepherd said.
Shepherd believed it was legitimate.
"Right, because my next door neighbor had just got a deal," Shepherd said.
So she called the number mentioned in the text message and a man answered, asking her to purchase a $300 Amazon gift card and give him the card number.
She never saw her $300 again.
"He just said to me, 'You got scammed,'" Shepherd said.
Shepherd promised it would never happen again to her and has since banded together with her senior neighbors to inform others and arm each other with knowledge.
They meet regularly with Titusville police at the community's clubhouse to talk fraud over donuts and coffee.
Titusville police spokesperson Amy Matthews said it's a race against time to reach seniors before scammers do.
"It's critical we reach out to them," Matthews said. "They come from a very trusting generation and they're going to answer the phone and give out information that might harm them and be victim of a fraud."
Detective David Rodriguez spent an hour with the Swan Lake seniors detailing the latest schemes and ripoffs.
"The common frauds and scams are IRS, FPL, free vacations, prizes," Rodriguez said. "You don't want to give your information over the phone because you don't know who you're talking to."
Rodriguez said often scam artists calling will pretend to be a relative, like a grandson, in trouble, asking for money.
Joyce Kramer said it happened to her.
"He was in the police department, he needed $2,500 to get out of jail, and I said 'I don't have $2,500.' I really thought it was my grandson out in Kansas," Kramer said. "My mistake was I said, 'John?' And he says, 'Yes, that's me, grandma.' I gave him the name!"
Kramer said another man pretending to be her grandson's attorney even called minutes later to reinforce the scam story.
Kramer knew enough to call her daughter and check on her grandson.
"She wanted to know why I was calling her and I said, 'I just got this strange phone call from John' and that's when she told me, 'It can't be John, mom, he was with me all day today.' Thank God she picked up the phone." Kramer said.
Matthews strongly advises seniors and anyone else who gets a call or text or email from someone they don't know not to answer it. If it's a call, let it go to voicemail. If the caller is legitimate, he or she will leave a voicemail.
"It is our goal to get the information out to these seniors to stop and reduce these types of crimes and to get crime results," Matthews said. "And the more we get it out, the more we talk about it, the less likely they'll be a victim."
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