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Guest Article: Ohio Department of Commerce Helps Protect Older Adults Targeted for Financial Fraud

An Older Americans Month guest article
by Sheryl Maxfield, Director, Ohio Department of Commerce

Social isolation from family, caregivers and other support networks – especially since the pandemic started – means unscrupulous criminals continue to target older Ohioans to steal their hard-earned money.

According to the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, nearly 25 percent of Ohio’s total population is age 60 or older, and the share of the population 65 years and older will continue to grow over the next 10 years.

Many of these older adults have been especially vulnerable during the pandemic to financial fraud and scammers. And today’s technology has made it easier for scammers to steal the person’s personal information and their money, or trick them to unwillingly committing fraud.

Some examples of scams reported to my department include:

  • Phishing emails and unsolicited texts or phone calls asking for banking, credit card or other financial information.
  • Fraudsters trying to get older adults to convert retirement assets into so-called “safer, guaranteed investments.”
  • Calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department or other federal agencies offering grants, checks or stimulus payments.

Education and awareness are the best weapons in the fight against fraud and to help ensure the financial security of Ohio’s most vulnerable population. Several of our divisions offer excellent resources on financial fraud avoidance, investor protection, and how to find unclaimed funds.

Here are some tips to help you protect your financial assets:

  • Be an informed consumer. The Division of Financial Institutions’ Office of Consumer Affairs has information about financial-related topics and can assist consumers who have conflicts with a state-chartered financial institution.
  • Get information on how to be an informed investor. Older adults are a major target of securities fraud by scammers. If you or someone you know suspects they may be a victim, call the Division of Securities’ Investor Protection Hotline at 877-683-7841.
  • Check to see if you have missing money. The Division of Unclaimed Funds holds  money from forgotten bank accounts, life insurance policies, refunds from utility companies and other sources of money that may belong to you.

Get more tips and information on the Commerce department’s Consumer Protection website.