Celebrate Older Americans Month by talking to your friends and family about sweepstakes scams and grandparent scams.
Sweepstakes scams continue to target older adults, and in 2011, Ohioans reported losing about $2 million to sweepstakes and prize scams.
The classic sweepstakes scam begins when you receive a phone call, letter, or email saying you have won the lottery or another cash prize. In order to claim the prize, you must pay taxes and fees, or provide your personal information. No matter what the ploy, if you are asked to wire money or give any payment in exchange for winning a prize, it’s a scam.
In the grandparent scheme, scam artists call pretending to be your grandchild. Your “grandchild” explains that he or she is out of the country, in trouble, and in need of your help. You are told you must send money immediately to help bail your grandchild out of jail. The scam may be elaborate, and the scammer may know personal information about you, such as your nickname or your grandchild’s name. Whatever the story, it’s a scam: the caller is only pretending to be your grandchild and any money you send will be lost.
Follow these tips to keep you and your family safe:
- Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can use a technique called “spoofing” to disguise the number that appears on your caller ID.
- Be suspicious if your “grandchild” calls and says he or she is out of the country and in trouble.
- Ask the caller a question that only your grandchild would know how to answer.
- Call your grandchild (or his or her parents) directly to see where your grandchild truly is.
- Never wire money to someone who calls unexpectedly, even if the caller claims to be a relative.
According to the Ohio Department of Aging, Older Americans Month was established in 1963 to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country. Every President since John Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking the nation to pay tribute in some way to elders in their communities. The observance is sponsored nationally by the U.S. Administration on Aging and in Ohio by the state Department of Aging (www.aging.ohio.gov).
To report a scam, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
View the Attorney General’s publications for seniors at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/Publications.