Police confirm scams targeting elders in area
Local law enforcement confirm that there are a multitude of scams operating in Allen and Putnam Counties targeting the elderly. Elder Victim Ministry regularly checks in with local law enforcement who confirm that many scams are in operation in our area, with victims in Putnam County losing anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to $170,000.
Detective Gary Deitrick of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said, “There have been multiple scams recurring in this area targeting the elderly. The most prevalent are people representing themselves as people from Medicare, Publisher’s Clearing House, Amazon, the IRS, Norton or Microsoft.”
These supposed representatives ask you to verify personal information or gain access to your computer. But once they have your name, date of birth, or access to your computer to find these details, they can access your bank accounts and withdraw money. You’ve been scammed.
Police Chief Gulker of Kalida Police Department said another common scam is someone contacts you through email, phone or an online chat service, and “they try to make a personal connection with you, and that starts building trust.” As you chat, you discover they’ve fallen on hard times or are in need of cash quick. They just need a little help to get them back on their feet; but they say they will pay you back.
Chief Gulker noted that the two most common hooks are “I have a child…” or “I’m in the military…” as these are subjects closest to our hearts.
So the scammer tells you a story about their child, or being posted on a mission for the special forces. Whatever their need, you help out this new friend you’ve never met by sending them money. This money comes in various amounts, and they ask for it in strange ways, such as gift cards, money transfer service or bitcoin. And soon they ask again for money, claiming there’s still a need or hardship.
Eventually, Chief Gulker warned, “they will turn on you,” once you stop sending money. He explains you’ll get blamed. Their sick child is going to die and it will be your fault, or they’ll threaten to come to your house if you don’t keep sending money.
Why do scams target elders of our community? Simply, the older generations are more trusting. “Scammers are so courteous, polite and they seem to care… all the things a lonely senior citizen is craving,” said Police Chief Gulker.
Financial scams targeting the elderly are a form of elder abuse. According to Elder Victim Ministry, the term elder abuse encompasses not just physical and emotional abuse, but neglect, exploitation, financial scams, identity theft, and fraud – anything that is an intentional or negligent act that causes harm to an older person. Elder Victim Ministry, a part of Crime Victim Services of Allen and Putnam Counties, initiates contact with older victims from law enforcement crime reports, offering assistance, counselling and spiritual support.
How to spot a scam:
Chief Gulker of Kalida is constantly telling people “If you didn’t play it, you didn’t win it,” in reference to lottery scams. He explains the Ohio Lottery Commission does not call you out of the blue, nor will they send you a check for the wrong amount or ask you to pay a processing fee upfront.
If you’re asked to pay using gift cards from multiple stores or a money transfer service, or even bitcoin (a digital currency), then it is most likely a scam.
Here’s what you do if you think you’re being scammed:
Tell someone; talk to someone else about this “friend” or any requests for money.
Take a little time to stop and think; the scammers are always pushing for you to act immediately, before you can think things through.
Get caller id on your home phone line, and only answer the phone when you recognize the number.
Monitor your or your loved ones’ bank accounts for any unusual activity.
Review your credit reports regularly with www.annualcreditreport.com.
Local law enforcement strongly recommends purchasing identity theft protection.
Attend an upcoming seminar in July by Elder Victim Ministry, educating yourself about scams in the area.
Detective Deitrick said “Many victims of scams do not report scams because they either don’t want to admit they were scammed or they feel embarrassed and do not want friends, family or the public to know they have been scammed. Reporting scams may not get their money back; however we can give them assistance with the banks or credit card companies.”
If you think you or a loved one is being scammed, reach out to an Elder Victim Ministry Advocate for help and support by calling 419-222-8666 (Allen County) or 419-523-1111 (Putnam County).