Bill and Kathie Schellhaas have seen it all when it comes to people being scammed, defrauded and cheated by unsavory characters and companies with poor business practices.
This retired couple has managed to recover more than $258,000 for people who have been "taken." Equally remarkable, they have managed to recover all this money for victims by working just four hours, one day a week.
How has this couple accomplished such a remarkable feat? By serving as volunteers responsible for implementing the Seniors vs. Crime, Special Project in the Florida Attorney General's Office, in St. Petersburg area.
You can find them at their office, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Mondays on the second-floor office of the Sunshine Center, 330 5th St. N.
The Seniors vs. Crime Project was instituted in 1989 by the Florida State Attorney General's Office. It allows seniors to become involved in not only their own consumer protection and education, but as "crime fighters" -- serving as the eyes and ears and actively assisting in consumer protection investigations in the state.
And, the Schellhaases' work isn't just on behalf of seniors, but people of all ages, who feel they have been conned by dishonest people or victimized due to an unfair business practice.
Kathie says she and her husband decided back in 2003 to become volunteers for this project because "it was an opportunity for us to help people." They have certainly done that. Since that time the couple has responded to 3,500 calls and complaints, and the volume of their work has increased substantially in recent years because of the Great Recession.
According to Bill, one of the biggest culprits for complaints are building contractors and repairmen, who perform "shoddy work," do construction jobs without permits, take people's deposits for work that is never done, or start jobs but never complete them.
Other common complaints come via the telephone. In particular, Bill noted people seek their help in resolving unwanted telephone solicitations that somehow turned into purchases they say the never ordered or wanted. A similar problem is calls from collection agencies. These cases involve the use of aggressive phone tactics demanding victims pay up for expenses they incurred and supposedly owe.
But in reality the victims don't owe the creditors a dime. This is especially true, said the couple, when it comes to fraudulent credit card expenses.
The standard procedure for Seniors vs. Crime is to review potential case documentation. Therefore, people are asked when they come visit Bill and Kathie to bring with them contracts, receipts, cancelled checks or any other type of written correspondence that may help them in their investigations.
While all cases may not be resolved to everyone's satisfaction, the couple said they try their best to come up with an "amenable solution" or "compromise." And don't be so embarassed you are reluctant to have the Schellhaases examine your situation. Seniors vs. Crime is both free and confidential.
To reach Bill and Kathie, if you feel you have been scammed, call 727-552-1807. To find more information about the overall program visit: www.seniorsvscrime.com.