Northeast Ohio seniors targeted in growing holiday season scams

Seniors need to report scams to multiple agencies

CLEVELAND - Northeast Ohio seniors are once again the targets of holiday season scams, and local agencies stress more seniors must report these cases to multiple agencies.

Nancy Allen told News 5 she was the victim of an identity scam that caused $10,000 to be illegally withdrawn from her checking account.

The incident has Allen issuing a warning to all seniors this holiday season.

"That was the reason for my breakdown, I can't believe I'm living like this," said Allen.

"Don't give them your card.  Do not give them any information over the phone."

Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs Director Sheryl Harris said more seniors must fight the fear and embarrassment and report scams.

Harris said it's important seniors report their cases to multiple agencies.

"The thing we're most worried about is that we know seniors under report scams," said Harris.

"They report it just to whatever agency they happen to be talking to." 

"It might be they tell a social worker who's then busy worrying about the impact of the scam, but not really investigating the scam, because that's not their work."

Cuyahoga County is responding, and has created the "Scam Squad," a group of a dozen agencies that will be working together to better address the issue of senior scams.

The Scam Squad includes the Cleveland Police Department, The Ohio Attorney General, and the Cleveland Better Business Bureau.

Cleveland BBB President Sue McConnell said the sharing of information will help with enforcement and prosecution in scam cases.

"Hopefully it will result in more investigations and prosecutions on scams that are being conducted locally," said McConnell.

"More than anything we really want to educate seniors and let them know that they do have a place they can call, there are people who can help them."

Cuyahoga County issued the following statement about the creation of its Scam Squad:

The Scam Squad, chaired by the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs and its Director, Sheryl Harris, taps into existing senior and law enforcement networks to:

•            Rapidly identify current fraud threats to older residents
•            Ensure scam reports reach the appropriate enforcement agencies
•            Make sure victims get a “warm hand-off” if they must be referred
•            Arm county residents with the information they need to spot and avoid scams
•            Reduce myths and stigmas about scams and scam victims

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