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Published: August 2, 2021

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The scam is old, but it continues to trap new victims. The fraudsters, engaged in what officials call the “grandparent scam,” target older adults by calling and pretending to be a relative (or a lawyer for the relative) who has been arrested and in need of bail money.

Recently two men were sentenced to prison for wire fraud after scamming several older residents of Lorain and other Northeast Ohio cities, who were bilked out of a combined total of nearly $400,000.

The grandparent scam, also known as “friend in-need,” is just one of many scams to keep on your radar, according to the Ohio Attorney General.

Five Scams on Ohio AG’s List

  1. Computer Repair Scam: An “employee” of a computer company contacts you claiming your computer has a virus and offers to “fix the problem.” The person will likely ask you to allow them access to your computer, which then allows the scammer to install malicious software designed to scan your computer for personal information or to lock your computer so that you cannot use it until you pay the scammer “ransom” to unlock it.
  2. Credit Repair Scam: Companies charge hundreds of dollars by promising to restore your credit and quickly erase debt but do little or nothing to improve your credit. (If you need to repair your credit or consolidate debt, you can arrange payment plans and improve your credit score yourself for little or no cost through a nonprofit credit counseling agency.)
  3. Imposter Scam: Someone contacts you pretending to be from a government agency like the IRS or a local court. The person will demand immediate payment, likely for back taxes or an old court fee, and threaten arrest if payment is not made immediately. The scammer may also request personal information, such as your social security number.
  4. Phishing: Scammers pretend to be your bank or a gov­ernment agency to “phish” for your personal informa­tion. They ask you to update or confirm your account by submit­ting your bank account number, password, or Social Security number. Never respond to unexpected requests for your personal information. Your bank or the IRS will never request your personal information over the phone or by e-mail.
  5. Phony Charities: You receive a call or letter asking you to make a charitable donation from someone who is pretending to represent a charity. Before you donate, research a charity with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting http://charitableregistration.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Charities/Research-Charities.aspx.

(The AG’s “elder abuse commission” offers special presentations on scams that target older adults. Click here to request a presentation.)

One scam just surfacing targets prospective travelers waiting for a passport. “With 2 million applications for U.S. passports in the pipeline, bad actors have exploited the bottleneck to try to take money from victims and run. Some of the con artists have pocketed victims’ personal and financial information, putting them at risk for identity risk,” according to AARP.

Frauds are also on the uptick involving rental cars and other travel-related expenses.

Tips to Avoid being Scammed

If you are waiting for your passport to arrive (it can take up to 4 ½ months) avoid suspicious websites that claim to help you quickly obtain the little blue book. To investigate a site, search its name online with terms such as “reviews” and “complaints” and “scam." And check out companies using the Better Business Bureau's website.

The Federal Trade Commission offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim of other scams:

  • Block unwanted calls and text messages. Take steps to block unwanted calls and filter unwanted text messages.

  • Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

  • If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.

  • Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses will give you time to decide. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.

  • Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

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Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020

In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.