CLAY COUNTY — Zachary Thompson of the Clay County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has been named the coordinator of the Clay County Citizen Education against Scams and Exploitation Initiative Clay County Prosecutor Daniel White said.

CEASE is a tool designed to stop scammers before they strike, said White. CEASE replaces an earlier program the county prosecutor rolled out that provided education and programs to older citizens about scams targeting the elderly.

“The demographics are shifting, scammers target people of all ages,” he said. “Zach identified this as a need and volunteered to spearhead our effort to address this issue.”

CEASE is designed as a proactive law enforcement tool, Thompson said.

“It has two parts: education and notification. We educate citizens by giving presentations to groups and organizations interested in learning about the most widespread scams and how to take steps to protect against them,” Thompson explained. “We also publish notifications about scams occurring in and affecting Clay County so citizens can be prepared and avoid being victimized.”

During his tenure as an assistant prosecuting attorney, Thompson said he’s seen the impact of fraud.

“I know the devastation crime leaves behind. We want to do everything we can to protect our citizens from being victimized,” he said.

The losses Americans suffer due to scams is likely in the billions of dollars annually, he added.

“What is sad is that often the victim just shrugs off his or her loss and never reports it, so losses are likely higher,” he said.

The Federal Trade Commission recorded nearly $1.5 billion in losses reported in the last year.

“Younger people are being victimized at a rate higher than citizens in their 70s,” states Thompson. “The fact is that nationally, over 40% of people in their 20s report being scammed due to fraudulent credit collection, income tax scams and other schemes. Less than 15% of persons in their 70s report suffering losses to fraud.”

While seniors were less likely to be scammed, those who were victimized typically lost an average of $751. The amount is substantially higher than younger victims, whose losses averaged $400, Thompson said.

“This educational component of the program is so important. It’s up to each of us to help each other avoid being victimized,” he said.

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