According to the Federal Trade Commission, an estimated 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud each year, with a substantial percentage of these being seniors. Research shows that Baby Boomers and older investors are natural targets for a wide variety of unscrupulous marketing practices because they have had more time to accumulate significant assets for retirement." -- Retirement Industry Trust Association
In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10, the retirement community, The Fountains of Boca Ciega Bay, 1255 Pasadena Avenue South, St. Petersburg, will be hosting two days of free, senior-focused consumer information workshops, March 6 & 7, from 1 to 4 p.m.
The workshops will be highlighted each day by a panel of speakers from various agencies that regularly serve older citizens. The goal is to arm them with enough information so they do not become victims of consumer fraud.
Spearheading these workshops is senior advocate Jennifer Naster with The Fountains, who got this idea after learning last year about National Consumer Protection Week from Anna Marie Millett, one of the panelists for this year's event.
"Having worked with seniors for almost 20 years, I have unfortunately learned seniors can often be targets for consumer crime. Therefore, with the help of Anna and the other panel members, my hope is that through this education and awareness, (local) seniors will be less of a target to be a victim."
Scheduled panelists for March 6 include:
• Detective Carl Reschke with the Florida Department of Financial Services, which serves consumers and taxpayers in the Sunshine State, through its 13 different divisions, including the Division of Consumer Services. This division helps consumers make informed, wise decisions in regards to insurance and other financial matters.
• Consumer Fraud Investigator Anna Marie Millet for Pinellas County Justice & Consumer Services, which offers various services related to justice coordination and consumer protection. Her work includes educating consumers in regards to hiring of contractors, investigating crimes against consumers and providing dispute resolutions. She is also a certified Florida Supreme Court mediator.
Making up the panel for March 7 workshop include:
• Detective Nancy Pillucere, with the Economic Crime Unit of the St. Petersburg Police Department Detective Pillucere has served with this unit for 20 years, during which she has developed into a recognized expert in various areas of financial crime. Those areas of expertise include: forgery, counterfeit currency, embezzlement and exploitation of the elderly and disabled adults.
• Senior Victim Advocate for Pinellas Cathy Stallings, with the Area Agency On Aging of Pasco-Pinellas, Inc. A key resource in the community when it comes to senior consumer fraud issues, in 2011 alone, her department distributed information via telephone and other types of communications to approximately 4,400 people. At the workshop, she is expected to address in detail the variety of "direct services" available to citizens 60 and older in Pinellas County, including:
- Criminal Justice Support and Accompaniment to Court
- Crisis Counseling
- Personal advocacy and referrals to community resources
- Assistance with completion of documents such as Victim Impact Statements for Court and Injunctions for Protection from Violence
- Assistance with Victim Compensation Claims
- Assistance with communication between victim and State Attorney General Office
- Senior Safety Cell Phone Program
• Attorney April Hill, founder of the Hill Law Group, an elder law firm in St. Petersburg. Her practice since opening her doors in 2002 includes the areas of estate planning, Life Care planning, Medicaid asset protection, VA benefits and probate. Long active in helping seniors as well through community service, she currently serves on the board of the Gulfport Senior Center Foundation and is active in the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
To RSVP for this function on either day, or for more information on the two-day event, please call 727-381-5411.