Prosecutor: How scams are targeting older victims in Butler County

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser . GREG LYNCH/STAFF
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Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser . GREG LYNCH/STAFF

The Butler County Prosecutor’s Office has continued to stress the need to protect older residents from scams and educate families, which it is calling out during Elder Abuse Awareness Month in June.

The term “elder abuse” is used to encompass the fraudulent crimes committed against and directly targeting those 65 and older. Thesescams are used to manipulate the victim into giving away sensitive and personal information, such as social security or credit card numbers, or even convincing them into wiring money right into the scammer’s bank account.

One example, commonly known as the “grandparent scam,” is used around spring break or summer vacations, a time when grandchildren are out of town. The scammer will contact the victim claiming that a grandchild has been jailed , and they will need to send money for their release.

During tax season, scammers pose as officers from the IRS, demanding the victim pay their overdue tax bills.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser, who started the Butler County Crimes Against the Elderly Task Force in September 2011, said crimes against older residents could get more attention.

“The legislature has already recognized that the elderly deserve special attention,” he said. " And I adhere to that and recognize that because it’s been from experience that the elderly are disadvantaged, not because they’re gullible, not because there’s stupid, it’s because they are genuinely good people ... because they have faith and trust in humanity in general.”

Gmoser said he has also tried to work with local police agencies to give attention to vulnerable victims.

“I have encouraged law enforcement to get with me when they get reports of scams in which the elderly have been disadvantaged, and victimized to get with me because I have an investigative staff and I am able to follow up on those cases.” Gmoser said.

Gmoser said that education is a vital step into order to protect older residents against fraudulent crimes. He also says that it’s important that the public is educated on elder abuse before a loved one becomes a victim.

“The solution to scamming is education,” he said. “The only way people are learning it now is by a bad experience by grandma and grandpa saying to their grandson, ‘I can’t give you a birthday present this year because we lost all our money to a scammer’, that’s not the way to learn.”

Susan Monnin, community outreach director for the prosecutor’s office, explains the steps to take if one becomes a victim of elder abuse.

“First things first, I’d say to contact your local police station first and make a report of the crime,” she said. “If they say that they aren’t able to pursue the case, contact our office and our scam hotline (888-662-3673).”

Monnin adds that victims, their families and the Butler community, may also visit the scam alerts tab within the Office of the Butler County Prosecutor webpage to find more resources and prevention strategies to best protect against elder abuse scams.

Gmoser said it’s important to keep these three guidelines in mind:

- Do not give out any personal information over the phone

- Never wire money

- Report any type of misconduct to the police or to the prosecution office

“I want the community to continue to educate themselves on these issues and how we can further protect our elders,” Gmoser said. “And if you are a victim of these types of scams, remember to report it. Report the crimes and we will do our utmost to help you.”

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