Senior Sleuths Bust The Bad Guys

Whether it's shady home repair work or bogus water purification systems, senior citizens are often easy prey for scams, reports CBS News Correspondent Gretchen Carlson.

But a Florida program -- now expanding to other states -- is turning seniors into sleuths, giving them the ammunition they need to finally get even.

In their 66 years together, Mac and Ethel Foster haven't argued over much. But a mattress pad almost put an end to their marital bliss.

After a high pressure sales pitch, Mac Foster plunked down more than a thousand bucks on a supposedly magnetic mattress pad. Instead of relief for his chronic back pain, it created new pain for his wife ...

"There's little hard pellets ... They just seemed to hit me right at the hip bone," Ethel said of the pad.

It turns out the magnetic mattress pad didn't even have magnets.

So the Fosters got mad, joining Seniors Versus Crime, a volunteer program that turns senior victims into senior sleuths. For the Fosters, that meant tracking down the mattress salesmen who had scammed more than 60 other retirees.

"Each of them are like assistant attorney generals," said Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist. "They have to have heart and you have to have guts and the seniors in this program have both."

Senior sleuths aren't just offering moral support to their peers; they're also making the bad guys pay, so far recovering more than $3 million dollars in Florida alone.

Senior sleuth Ruth Randall has collected more than $150,000 on the cases she's closed.

"If they're ducking me, I call them up very nicely or very nastily, depending on who he is or what he has to say," she said.

Another senior sleuth, Martha Gibson, came to Ruth with a badly botched air conditioning job. She had tried to get help at several other government agencies. But it was Ruth who got her $3,700 back in no time.

"She's a tiger, I tell you that!" Martha said.

During an undercover government sting in her home, another senior sleuth, Evelyn Burton, helped to bust a bogus water purification salesman.

"I just let him talk and he didn't scare me. You know, the investigators were in the next room, and besides, I had a nice little gun in the house," she said.

They may look mild mannered, but these senior private eyes don't like to be taken, and now they're finally getting a chance to settle the score.

"She got her check,'' says Randall, closing another case.
  • Jaime Holguin

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