Exposing scams targeting senior citizens


The Ohio Attorney General's Elder Justice Initiative is providing advocacy to combat elder abuse and exploitation in Ohio.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reports between July of 2013 and June of 2017, the number of reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of adults over the age of 60 increased by more than 3,000.

The number of reports of physical abuse during the same time frame also increased from 813 to 992.

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Jonathan Blanton heads up the Ohio Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit. He said scammers often target the elderly because they are often trusting.

"They grew up in a time when a handshake meant something, and when your word was your bond," said Blanton. He said scammers target that trusting nature, often with lucrative results.

The Ohio Attorney General is urging adult children to talk to their aging parents about the popular 'grandparent scam.'

Here's how it works: A grandparent receives a phone call from a scammer posing as a law enforcement officer or attorney claiming their grandchild has been arrested and needs money.

In one case, a central Ohio grandmother told CrimeTracker 10 she was so upset, she agreed to get into a cab and purchase $5,000 worth of gift cards.

The Ohio Attorney General said the "lottery scam" or "sweepstakes scam" is also a popular method of swindling the elderly out of their money.

A loved one receives a phone call congratulating them on winning a large sum of money, but the caller needs the victim to pay "taxes" or "fees."

Investigators say one Central Ohio victim lost a half million dollars to this form of financial exploitation.

Blanton said you should also talk to loved ones about home improvement scams....men posing as sub-contractors or construction workers and offering to make home improvement for a fraction of the regular cost.

The workers demand payment up front, and take the money and run.

"Scammers are extremely good at what they do. It is their profession. It is their job," said Blanton. He said there's a reason scammers target the elderly.

"They're isolated. They're alone. It's someone who takes the time to call them on the phone, and make them feel special...make them feel involved...make them feel smart," explained Blanton.

He said scammers count on victims never reporting the crime because they are embarrassed.

A US Department of Justice study estimates one in nine Americans 60 and older suffers abuse each year. For every case reported to authorities, it's believed five more go unreported.

"If we were to really find out how much is lost, how many victims are harmed, it would be absolutely staggering," said Blanton.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said signs of a scam include:

  • You're asked to wire money or send a prepaid gift card to a stranger
  • You've won a contest you've never heard of or entered
  • You're pressured to 'act now.'
  • You have to pay a fee to receive your "prize"
  • Your personal information is requested
  • A large down payment is requested
  • A company refuses to provide written information
  • A company has no physical address, only a P.O. Box

For more information on the Elder Justice Initiative, or to get support for a victim of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, call 800-282-0515, or contact DeWine's office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.