Scammers target lonely, concerned older residents early in the year

Some older Middletown residents have given scammers their credit card numbers and have had money stolen from their accounts, according to Middletown police.
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Some older Middletown residents have given scammers their credit card numbers and have had money stolen from their accounts, according to Middletown police.

Faulty gym memberships and various phone and mail scams targeting older residents are on the radar of local law enforcement officials as predators have increased their efforts.

In 2011, the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office started the Butler County Crimes Against the Elderly Task Force. Community Outreach Director Susan Monnin says she is passionate about the work the task force is doing, but the scam artists are just working harder to target older residents.

“This time of year we are on the look out for romance and IRS scams again the elderly,” she said. “We have dealt with several of these types of cases, and it just breaks your heart to know that some of these people lose everything. I would just come through the phone to help anybody that is a victim of these types of crimes.”

MORE: Middletown police warn of scam targeting elderly

Monnin described several cases that illustrated just how effective these types of scams can be, including the case of a Butler County woman who thought she had found romance but instead was conned out of money.

“This time of year, older people are shut in and they become lonely,” she said. “This woman had lost her husband and was lonely. She ended up sending $150,000 after getting into a relationship with a man online and lost it.”

Activity on social media is one of the activities that can lure older adults into possible problems, according to Monnin.

“Anybody can be a victim — nobody is immune — but I think older grandparents get on Facebook to see pictures of their grandkids and to stay in touch,” she said. “But ultimately end up being lured into scam.”

Getting a phone call from someone purporting to be the IRS and claiming money is owed is another popular swindle. Also, calls asking an older parent or grandparent for money because a loved one is in trouble are common.

“We had a case involving someone in Fairfield who sent $7,200 cash because they were told their grandson was in trouble and wouldn’t be able to return to college at UCLA,” Monnin said. “These scam artists work hard to build personal relationships with people and appeal to their emotional side.”

While catching and prosecuting the perpetrators can be tough, Monnin said that there is momentum building in not only tracking scammers down, but also find a way to get people their money back.

She pointed to a recent class action suit against Western Union that will allow people bilked out of money to recoup their lost cash. Last year, the money wire giant admitted to helping scammers who stole millions of dollars.

Anybody was scammed via a Western Union transaction from Jan. 1, 2004 to Jan. 19, 2017 has until Feb. 12, 2018 to have a claim verified and have an opportunity to get money back. People wanting to file a claim must do so through the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

“This is a great development in the battle against scammers,” Monnin said.

MORE: Butler County woman’s mother scammed out of $250,000

Sandra Guile of the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau said her agency is on the lookout for another type of scam — bad gym membership contracts.

Gym membership contracts can be confusing and misleading, she added, so it is important to read over the details carefully before signing.

“Take the contract home and read it carefully before signing to determine whether or not it’s right for you,” Guile explained. “It should include all the services provided, including any group fitness classes offered, as well as any other benefits discussed in your visit.”

But ultimately, making the commitment and the time to take advantage of what the new membership can offer is important.

“Joining a gym is a great way to get healthier and meet new people, and the new year is a great time to start,” Guile said. “Just make sure you’ve done your research and are comfortable making and keeping the commitment.”


HOW TO CAN GET HELP AFTER BEING SCAMMED

Butler County Adult Protective Services: 513-887-4081

Butler County Crimes Against the Elderly Task Force: 888-662-3673

Ohio Attorney General’s Office:1-800-282-0515

TOP SCAMS TARGETING OLDER RESIDENTS

1) The IRS Impersonation scam

2) Sweepstakes Scams

3) Robocalls / Unwanted phone calls

4) Computer Tech Support Schemes

5) Identity Theft

6) Grandparent Scams

7) Elder Financial Abuse

8) Grant Schemes

9) Romance Scams

10) Home Improvement Scams

SOURCE: Butler County Prosecutor’s Office and Law For Seniors