By Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, for Boomerang
One of the striking things I've seen since becoming Attorney General is how often older Ohioans are targeted for scams. For instance, there is the grandparent telephone scam: You get a call from someone posing as your grandchild, who claims to be in trouble, often in a foreign country. The grandchild asks for money to pay a lawyer, or a fine, to get in the clear. You're also asked to not tell their parents so they don't get in trouble.
But the call is not from your grandchild and the money goes into a crook's pockets. I hope you have heard about this because we have worked hard to get the word out about it. And, because of the nature of the crime, it's tough to track down. But my office is doing its best to find these scammers. To put even more focus on this crime and others like it, I created the Economic Crimes Division inside our Consumer Protection Section.
We've seen seniors targeted in person, too. Working with other law enforcement agencies around the state, we've already sent to prison some people who tried to take advantage of seniors.
- One man in the Cincinnati area took $13,000 from an 87-year-old woman. He was supposed to install a fence. The work was only partly done and what was there was lousy. He took $1,000 from another man to install a porch. He didn't do it; now he's behind bars.
- In the Dayton area, we helped shut down some guys running a scam that involved tree trimming and lawn care. They convinced people into thinking their trees were diseased or unsafe. They made it sound like they were legitimate businesses. Two of the three are either in jail or on probation. Each was ordered to pay almost $33,000 in restitution. The third man goes on trial soon.
Why do criminals target seniors? Well, often older people are somewhat isolated and have no one to turn to immediately. In the case of home repairs, it's not always as easy for seniors to do work around the house as it once was. And, in the case of the grandparent phone scam, the bad guys are quite good at playing on our love for our grandkids. They know we'd happily help out our kids and their kids in times of trouble.
The con artists also think we won't put up much of a fight if we get scammed. They think we might be embarrassed and just want to forget the whole thing. They're wrong. Together, we are putting up a fight and will continue to send the signal that, in Ohio, taking advantage of anyone, including seniors, won't be tolerated.
If you get one of those calls from a grandchild in trouble, ask questions only she would know. Check with another family member. Call the grandchild at a number you know is right. When someone wants you to rush a decision about spending money, put on the brakes. After all, it's taken you a lifetime of work to get what you have. And here's another saying we've heard all our lives that rings true today: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Learn more by calling our help line at 1-800-282-0515 or visiting www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov. You also can file a complaint by calling or visiting the website. If you're on Twitter or Facebook, so are we.
By staying cautious and curious, and talking with family and friends, you'll be taking important steps to help make your future safe and enjoyable. And my office will be right there with you doing all we can to help.
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