Protect yourself and loved ones against financial elder abuse scams

By Judge Zack Dolyk

We have had reports of residents receiving letters from companies offering to obtain a Deed and Property Assessment Profiles for them.  The letters look official and offers this service to you along with a large “processing fee.”  In one case the fee is $86.00.  This information can be obtained at the Recorders Offices of Erie and Lorain Counties free of charge or, at most, a few dollar copying charge.

This is just one of many scams that seem to be becoming more and more prevalent.  Unfortunately, in many cases they target the elderly.

Erie County Prosecutor, Kevin Baxter has recently hired an investigator to handle Erie County financial elder abuse issues.  This position is funded by Serving Our Seniors and is a 12 month pilot program.

Serving Our Seniors is a private nonprofit geriatric social service agency.  It is funded through the Erie County Senior Service tax levy, volunteers and donations.  The office is located at 310 E. Boalt Street, Sandusky, Ohio and can be reached at 419-624-1856 or 1-800-564-1856.  His website is www.servingourseniors.org.

Scammers use various tactics to make their offers seem legitimate.  Initial contact may be by telephone, letters, door-to-door solicitations, fliers, e-mails, or phony websites.  They try to convince consumers to send them money or give personal information such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers.

Some of the signs that it may be a scam are; you have won a contest you never have heard of, pressure to “act now”, pay a fee to receive your prize, personal information is requested, the company has no physical address and they refuse to provide written information.

To protect yourself you must stay informed about the latest and most common consumer scams.  Research the businesses or charities before doing business with them.  Contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 1 800-282-0515 or visit their website at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov and the Better Business Bureau, Toledo Office 1-419-531-3116 and Cleveland Office 1 216-241-7678 to check their reputation.  Never do business with a company that refuses to give you its information in writing or one that refuses to give you a phone number, a physical address or references.  You may also contact the Ohio Secretary of State at 1 877-644-6889 to make sure a company is registered as a business in Ohio.

Read all the fine print in any agreement before you sign.  You should review any contract with an attorney, friend or family member.  Monitor your financial accounts.  If a fraudulent charge appears on your bank statement you should immediately notify your bank.

Ohio consumer laws protect you from unfair, deceptive and unconscionable practices in consumer transactions.

If you have a problem with a purchase you made, notify the company in writing.  Explain your complaint, the facts and the resolution you desire.  If you suspect fraud or if you cannot resolve the problem on your own, file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.  They can be reached at 1 800-282-0515

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