Advice offered at Mahoning Valley Anti-Fraud and Anti–Exploitation Senior Forum

If you receive an emotional call from someone claiming to be your grandchild who was arrested and jailed in a foreign country and needs several thousand dollars to post bond, what are the first two things you should do?

Refrain from sending any money and realize it’s likely a scam, a consumer-protection expert warns.

“They pretend to be a police officer, a judge, a bail bondsman and your granddaughter,” Ryan Lippe said about those who take part in the so-called grandparent scam, where con artists posing as family members, law-enforcement personnel and others provide phony stories to get victims to send or wire money to them.

Lippe, who’s with the Ohio Attorney General’s office’s consumer-protection section, was among panelists at the Austintown Senior Center who discussed the growing problem of financial exploitation against the elderly during Friday’s Mahoning Valley Anti-Fraud and Anti–Exploitation Senior Forum.

The program, in partnership with the center and the Area Agency on Aging 11, offered experts from Adult Protective Services as well as those in law enforcement, banking, consumer protection and elder law who addressed many types of scams aimed largely at older adults.

Seniors in the U.S. lose about $36.5 billion annually to financial exploitation, an estimated $17 billion of which is the result of deceptive but sometimes legal tactics targeting older people, according to the True Link Financial Report on Elder Abuse 2015.

Also common is a scam in which callers claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service tell people they are delinquent on their income taxes and will be arrested if they fail to pay a certain amount. Victims often are instructed to buy money or gift cards at big-box stores such as Walmart, then wire the funds, Lippe explained.

“It’s like giving them cash and running in the other direction,” he said, noting that the IRS always sends letters to people who owe money.

Read MORE in Saturday's VINDICATOR.

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