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Ohio: 13th in elder scam losses

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is America’s top law enforcement agency. I recently posed a list of questions on senior fraud to the FBI, and the answers are worth reading.

Last year, the FBI received 92,371 complaints from Americans more than 60 years old, reporting losses in excess of $1.7 billion, a 74 percent increase from the previous year.

The average loss for “over 60” scam victims exceeded $18,000 per person. And sadly, more than 3,100 elderly Americans lost over $100,000 each in scams and frauds.

How big is the elder scam problem in northeast Ohio? Last year, more than 4,100 Ohioans older than 60 were victims of elder scams and fraud, losing $4.5 million from their life savings. Our state ranked 13th in the nation for victim losses in 2021.

The top five scams against Buckeye seniors are tech support scams; nonpayment or nondelivery of goods; romance scams; personal data breach; and extortion.

The FBI reports romance scams and confidence fraud are common in Ohio. Seniors connecting online for dating, playing online games or joining online communities are at high risk to become involved with a slick imposter. Many older adults have scant knowledge of information technology and are ripe for the plucking when using a computer or smart phone.

WHAT CAN I DO?

The FBI says the five most important things older adults can do to protect themselves from scams is to shred credit card receipts and bank statements; close unused credit card and bank accounts; never give personal information on the phone, mail or internet; never respond to an offer you don’t fully understand.

And, before investing, talk over the decision with a trusted friend or adviser.

CAN THE FBI RECOVER CASH?

The agency operates a Recovery Asset Team to help get the money back. They call it the RAT. When a victim reports a money transfer was made under false pretenses to a bank account located in the United States, the FBI RAT team contacts the bank involved and requests freezing of any accounts involved.

In 2021, the RAT folks assisted in 1,726 incidents involving losses of $443 million, ultimately recovering about $328 million for victims, a success rate of 74 percent.

Here’s how:

• To get the asset recovery process going, immediately report your loss to the FBI. The faster you report your loss, the better your chances of recovering your money.

• Report losses online to the FBI’s internet crime complaint center at www.ic3.gov.

• Or call the FBI Cleveland Field Office at 216-522-1400.

STEP UP

The FBI says that scams and fraud are nothing new, though the computer age has enabled thieves to run amok. Every senior should educate themselves about scams.

If you are a caregiver, closely watch who your loved one is meeting online or inviting into their home.

If you are a scam victim, don’t be shy — step up and report the crime. Your information can help the FBI and law enforcement identify trends and techniques, and put the creeps behind bars.

I offer a big thank you to the FBI Cleveland Field Office and the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center for all their help in this story and their thankless sacrifice to keep America safe.

To report a scam or to ask questions, seniors may call county Senior Services Units. In Trumbull County, call Don Hyde at 330-675-7096. In Mahoning County, call Bob Schaeffer at 330-480-5078.

The FBI operates a Recovery Asset Team to help recover scammed funds. Report losses online to the FBI’s internet crime complaint center at www.ic3.gov. Or call the FBI Cleveland Field Office at 216-522-1400.

Dave Long answers questions during a series of monthly talks on the latest scams, why scammers target seniors and how to protect personal information 1 p.m. fourth Thursday of every month at the Poland Township Government Center, 3339 Dobbins Road, Poland.

Dave Long of Poland, a Youngstown State University graduate, is a retired public affairs officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection who later worked as an Elder Scam Prevention Outreach specialist in Rochester, N.Y., before moving back to the Mahoning Valley.

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