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Beware of scum of scammers who prey on our patriotism



Published: Sat, July 13, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Scam artists of ANY ILK AREN’T destined to win any citizen of the year awards. Bilking unwitting people out of hard-earned cash for services not rendered or merchandise not delivered has long been an atrocious and prickly thorn on the side of law-abiding society.

But a new variety of scam artists cropping up in Ohio with disturbing regularity has plunged this brand of criminality to new lows in despicable insensitivity and greed.

These scum of the scammers have the unmitigated gall to prey on our Greatest Generation of World War II-era and other older Ohioans in an unseemly ploy to exploit patriotism for their own hoggish and callous gain.

OHIO FIGHTS BACK

To Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine’s credit, our state has recognized and is actively fighting these dishonorable smooth-talkers who swindle cash in the guise of fundraising for our nation’s honorable military veterans.

Just late last month, DeWine and officials in Franklin County sent John W. Hargrove to prison for 2 Ω years for soliciting money for a fraudulent veterans charity, Ohio Veteran Source. Hargrove claimed the donated funds would help local veterans when in fact he pocketed the $2,000 in contributions for himself.

Unfortunately, the Hargrove case is hardly isolated. Just in the past year, DeWine and his staff have been investigating six similar cases in which the con artists pose as representatives of known or made-up veterans charities to extort their targets — mostly elderly Ohioans — out of literally millions of dollars.

The most heinous case is set for trial in Cleveland in September. John Donald Cody, also known as Bobby Thompson, is accused of collecting up to $100 million in Ohio and elsewhere for the fraudulent charity he called the United States Navy Veterans Association.

As our attorney general aptly points out, the scam is growing because the ploy works. “We feel a debt to our veterans. When we are presented with an opportunity to pay that debt, we are more susceptible [to being scammed],” DeWine said.

HOW YOU CAN FIGHT BACK

That’s why DeWine has issued a statewide alert to potential victims of these abominable offenses. His checklist of cautionary behavior merits widespread attention and adherence. Recipients of veteran charity solicitations should be wary if:

The charity’s name is similar to a well-known, nationally recognized charity.

Callers use high-pressure tactics to request immediate donations.

The caller is hesitant or unable to answer questions.

The caller offers to pick up donations immediately instead of waiting to receive them in the mail.

The caller offers prizes in return for a donation.

The caller requests checks to be made payable to a person instead of the charity

If such pitches sound familiar, just say no.

Through a combination of savvy knowledge of potential scams and harsh punishment for the scammers, our older veterans and all Ohioans will not allow their sincere patriotism to be subverted for selfish gain.


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