DeWitt Police Department holds fraud seminar for seniors

Most artists earn the admiration of folks, but there's one type that often steals it: Scam artists. Prevalent in today's society, scam artists invade people's lives through telemarketing, Internet, and investment scams, and senior citizens have become a main target for such types of fraud. The DeWitt Police Department wants to help beat deception through education.

Last week, its investigations division, in conjunction with the Community Policing program that involves interaction with area neighborhoods, launched its first "crime-fighter" series.

"The concept behind it is protection through education," said DPD Investigator Scott Kapral. "Right now some of the biggest targets for scams are the elderly which is why we're doing this [seminar] today."

Sergeant Jim Hildmann, who heads the department's community policing program, said the new concept's goal is to hit hot topics discovered at neighborhood watch meetings, and address them with two-hour seminars when feasible.

"We're going to try to incorporate presentations like Internet Safety," Hildmann said. "We'll offer it to all the residents through the mailing system and see who comes to check them out."

Thomas Somlo of DeWitt was one of more than 60 people to attend the first class on fraud. Although he said he has never been a victim of scam artists, he said the seminar offered good preventative measures.

"[The seminar gave] a lot of good pointers on what to watch out for," he said.

Kapral pointed out several warning signs for which seniors should be aware, but emphasized it's not up to them to try to figure out if it's a scam. Rather, call the police to report what's happening.

"Take [the warning signs] in clusters," Kapral said. "If you've got three or four, [don't] worry what exactly it could be about, just pick up on the fact that it's a warning sign."

If you feel something is amiss, call the police and explain what is happening, he said. The police will then look further into the matter.

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