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News and articles from the Ohio Department of Aging.

Guest Article: Protecting Ohio's seniors from fraud Bookmark

Guest article submitted by: Ohio Department of Commerce

Keeping people and their assets safe, sound and secure is a key role of the Ohio Department of Commerce. Through the divisions of Financial Institutions and Securities, Commerce works to protect the savings and investments of all residents, especially for older Ohioans who cannot afford to lose any of their money earned over a lifetime.

Seniors are often targeted by scammers, which is why we focus on education and prevention efforts to help stop these thieves before they strike. The Division of Financial Institutions ensures Ohioan’s money is safe by regulating state-chartered banks, credit unions and other financial-related businesses. The Division of Securities licenses those who sell securities, registers securities products for sale, and investigates alleged violations of the Ohio Securities Act; they can pursue administrative actions, civil injunctive actions and criminal prosecutions.

Guard Yourself Against Financial Scams

To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and scams related to financial institutions:

  • Request a free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies to ensure someone hasn’t stolen your identity by submitting credit requests.
  • Review bank and credit card statements each month to ensure there are no unauthorized withdrawals or fraudulent charges.
  • Never provide personal or payment information to anyone calling to collect a payment. Ask for the request to be mailed instead.
  • Shred documents with identifying account numbers if they are not needed, including old, unwanted and unused blank checks.
  • Pay attention to alerts from financial institutions indicating when unfamiliar charges or withdrawals occur. Requests to confirm address changes also signal possible fraud.
  • Protect personal and financial account data including a Social Security number, birth date, credit and debit card numbers, and bank account numbers. Keep debit card PIN information private.
  • Use preprinted personal checks, not blank checks that arrive unsolicited through the mail.

Contact the Division of Financial Institutions Consumer Affairs office at 1-866-278-0003 to get tips to protect yourself from fraud or to file a complaint.

Check Before You Invest

Across the country, older Americans are being encouraged to take part in activities that promote wellness and social interaction. While remaining socially engaged can improve the quality of life for older adults, at the same time, scammers will steal seniors’ money through affinity fraud, which exploits relationships built through common interests and activities.

These scams exploit the trust and friendship that exists in groups, including religious and ethnic affiliations, sports and other leisure activities, and business and professional groups. Because of the tight-knit structure of these groups, the scammer – who is a member or pretends to be a member – counts on the trust factor that develops among group members. Often, the leader of the group is the first unsuspecting victim and unwittingly spreads the word among other members that the investment is legitimate when, in reality, it’s a scam. Also, don’t fall for investments that promise little or no risk, “guaranteed” returns or unusually high profits. These are classic warning signs of fraud.

Before investing, research the person’s background and the investment itself, even if you know the person. The person telling you about the investment may have been fooled into believing the investment is legitimate when it is not.

Get additional information and tips to avoid affinity fraud online.

If you or someone you know suspects they may be a victim of fraud, call the Division of Securities’ Investor Protection Hotline at 877-683-7841.

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