• 54°

Seasonal scams target elderly

Police chief warns caution

Phyllis Johnson, of Ironton, won the lottery the other day — or so the voice on the other end of the telephone line told her.

“He said he was John Kingston and he was from Las Vegas,” Johnson said. “He said I won $2 million dollars and a white Mercedes.”

Ah, but to claim the lottery winnings, Johnson had to send him money first, via a Greendot card she would purchase with her own money. Johnson had heard of guys like Kingston before and didn’t send a dime. She did report him to the Ironton Police Department.

“I have seen so many people in the paper getting scammed,” Johnson lamented.

Over the years, Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey has heard and seen it all:the roofing scams, the telephone scams, the email scams.

“They seem to go up this time of year. The weather starts getting warmer and this is when we start seeing scams for home improvement, for house washing and roof repairs,” Carey said.

Carey told the story of scammers who came in pairs a few years ago. One would distract the homeowner while the other did something to make their potential victims believe they had a problem with their roof.

The scammers were looking for money up front to make repairs that were never made. Once the money was in hand, the roof-patching scammers vanished.

Carey warned people to be very cautious of anyone making solicitations out of the blue, be it over the phone, via the Internet or standing at their door.

Carey said people should never, never give out any information about themselves over the phone or Internet, particularly to people they don’t know. Often, he said, scammers will call or email and pretend they need a potential victim’s bank information or social security number and then use this information to drain the bank account.

He said they should also never send money to people they do not know.

Johnson checked on her so-called lottery winnings and discovered her caller was not in Las Vegas, as he had said, but was actually in Jamaica.

Carey said this is not unusual, either. Many scammers are often in foreign countries in an attempt to stay out of reach of the U.S. justice system. He said, however, it is important to report scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which handles fraud scheme investigation.


Tips from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office

Signs it’s a scam

• You’re asked to wire money 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 has no physical address, only a P.O. box.


How to protect yourself

• Never wire money to a stranger

• Research businesses and charities: Before doing business with a company, check its reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Also ask family and friends for recommendations. Never do business with a company that refuses to give you written information, a phone number, a physical address, or references.

• Read the fine print: Read all the terms and conditions of any agreement before you sign. Get warranties and all verbal promises in writing. Review contracts with a trusted attorney, friend, or family member. If a fraudulent charge appears on your bank or credit card statement, immediately notify your bank.

• Remember your rights: Ohio consumer law protects you from unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable practices in consumer transactions. For example, advertisements must list exclusions and limitations, and a store must post its return policy clearly. In Ohio, it is illegal to charge a fee for a prize.

• Report scams and unfair practices: If you have a problem with a purchase you made, notify the company in writing. Explain your complaint and give a deadline for resolution.

If you suspect a scam or cannot resolve the problem on your own, file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or call 800-282-0515.