PARIS – The Maine Sheriff’s Association has elected Linda Hooker of Oxford its employee of the year. Hooker, who has worked for the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department since 1997, was recognized for her work in helping protect area elderly from scam artists.

Oxford County Sheriff Lloyd Herrick nominated Hooker. He said Tuesday, “I would say through Linda’s efforts and the sheriff’s office we have heightened the awareness of ongoing scams and of the people trying to focus on seniors for their vulnerability.”

Herrick launched the TRIAD program, which stands for The Right Idea and Directions, when Hooker began working for the sheriff’s office as an administrative assistant eight years ago. Since then, she has taught many senior citizens to better protect themselves from burglary, theft and exploitation. Sometimes, she says, it’s as simple as encouraging them to hang up on a caller – something the polite elderly may have a hard time doing.

Through lectures at churches, libraries and to seniors groups, Hooker taught seniors what to say to potential scammers and how to contact her if they feel they have been taken advantage of.

And when the elderly call with a complaint, she follows up: If she’s given a phone number, Hooker will call it, query the person and, if warranted, tell the caller to remove the elderly person’s name from their calling list.

She also organized a council of about six older women who help her create and organize these activities, including the annual Senior Appreciation Day picnic at the Fryeburg Fair.

Hooker grew up in Otisfield and raised her children on a dairy farm in Oxford. When she and her husband sold the cows in 1994, she started working for the county, taking on a variety of positions from being a dispatcher to working in the jail, she said.

In addition to her counseling about scams, she says she comforts people who get agitated after an uncomfortable experience.

“I’m a reassurance,” she said. “My husband calls me Dear Abby.”

The elderly also feel they might be bothering a busy sheriff’s office, and having her at the end of the line helps persuade them they aren’t being an inconvenience, Hooker said. And she, added, there’s a list of people she calls every few weeks just to check in on.

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