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Seniors schooled on how to not to become victims of crime

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 08:20 AM

TAMPA Deputy Judy Woster walked through the room telling people to take out their wallets and empty their purses.

The request, Woster said, will help them avoid becoming victims of crime.

"Just take what you need," the deputy said. "Leave everything else at home. Don't have too many credit cards. Don't have too much stuff."

Woster and other law enforcement officers spent Friday morning in northwest Hillsborough County giving seniors tips to keep them safe at home and when they travel.

Four agencies, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the Tampa Police Department, along with a dozen vendors participated in the annual crime prevention and safety fair. More than 100 people attended the event at Northdale Recreation Center.

Nancy Stearns said the fair was a good refresher course for everyone who attended.

"As we grow older, we could get forgetful about our surroundings," Stearns said. "This is good reinforcement."

Bill Castens, founder of community group Northdale OWLS — which stands for Older, Wiser, Lively Seniors — said he learns something new every year.

He now carries a simple billfold that holds his driver's license and one credit card instead of a bulky wallet. Castens said this year he'll take a high-tech tip to heart.

"I'm going to lock my iPhone with a password," said Castens, whose organization co-sponsored the safety fair.

Woster's presentation focused on fraud and identity theft. She called three people to the front of the room and asked them to take out the contents of their wallets and purses and place them on a table.

One of the reluctant volunteers was Northdale resident Irma Capaz, who had a large purse the deputy jokingly referred to as a suitcase.

In all, Capaz was carrying six credit cards, a checkbook, two notebooks, a stack of gift cards from Christmas, two bottles of lotion and two kinds of lipstick.

Woster told Capaz the purse's size and contents are a tempting target for thieves.

Capaz said that once home, she would start thinking about what she can do without.

"You know how women are. We need all this stuff," Capaz said with a laugh. "I guess I do have room to reduce. But I'm always thinking about what I can put in my purse."

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office offers these tips for seniors on how to keep safe at home and on the road:


rreyes@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7920
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