Senior citizens, because of their age and attitude, can be easy targets for scammers, and officials are issuing new warnings.
When their phone rings, they’re excited to talk to someone, and during that conversation, they can become comfortable and fall prey for scammers seeking personal information.
“They’re lured into a state of trust,” said Andrew Spatt, director of Seniors Helping Seniors Butler County.
Spatt said these scammers cast a wide net of potential victims, and even if only a few seniors disclose valuable personal information such as Social Security or banking numbers, the scammer’s “months are made.”
Sometimes, he said, one bit of information may be the “final piece” they need to wipe out a person’s bank account.
He called phone scams “a big, lucrative business.” By the time seniors realize they’ve been scammed, sometimes it’s too late, Spatt said.
He said seniors are vulnerable to phone scams because they’re less educated about the schemes, they’re “easy to be put into a fearful box,” and they’re very trusting.
He said anyone who receives a phone call from someone they don’t know should ask as many questions as possible. That includes the person’s name and phone number, email address and company where they work. He suggested making “a cheat sheet” with questions to ask anytime a potential scammer calls.
Seniors also should have a list of people they trust such as family and friends and lawyers if they have any questions and need advice.
Middletown police officer Holly Owens recently talked to a Neighborhood Watch group at Central Connections, a senior citizens center on Central Avenue. Several people in attendance told Owens they had received phone scams and one man said he received four calls in one day.
Peole 60 and older are most likely to be victimized by internet-facilitated criminal activity by scammers.
According to the FBI’s 2017 Internet Crime Complaint Center annual report, that age group ranks No. 1 in terms of victimization and dollar losses.
In 2017, there were 49,523 complaints with adjusted dollar losses listed at $342 million. However, this does not include complaints made to local and state law enforcement agencies or other federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission.
Sandra Guile of the Cincinnati office of the Better Business Bureau said the office has received a lot of calls in the region about romance scams, sweepstakes/lottery scams, income tax scams, home improvement scams, energy/utility supplier scams and robocalls.
She said if you don’t recognize the phone number, don’t answer the call and she said the IRS only contacts people by mail.
Last year, the Better Business Bureau’s Cincinnati office received 511 scam or fraud complaints. Guile said of that number, there was nearly $1.36 million in actual dollars lost from crimes that took place and money taken before it was reported to BBB.
In addition, of the 511 reports made to the BBB, 453 people provided their age. People age 65 and older made the most reports with 97 scam/fraud complaints and that 292 women and 164 men reported complaints to the BBB. The top two ways scammers and fraudsters contacted people were by phone, 248 complaints; and email, 65 complaints, Guile said.
Staff writer Ed Richter contributed to this report.
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