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Cuyahoga County Scam Squad uses BINGO to educate seniors to avoid scammers

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 8:35 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Our partners at the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad are trying out a new way to engage seniors.

The goal is to teach them to protect their money and personal information.

It’s an increasingly important lesson, as we discovered new numbers that show a particular scam is drawing more and more money out of local victims.

Sheryl Harris with the County’s Department of Consumer Affairs said the new game the Scam Squad created is much like BINGO.

It’s called ‘SCAMO’ and she said groups are playing it at senior centers across the county.

We got to see the game in action this week.

Each space includes information about a scheme affecting our area.

We noticed that Officials spent more time discussing one specific scam during the game Tuesday.

Harris said romance scams popped into Cuyahoga County’s top 10 in 2020 for the first time.

“[It] was just an eye-opener for us,” Harris said.

Harris said romance scams skyrocketed as the pandemic isolated people last year.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, victims in Ohio made 1,132 fraud reports on romance scams with reported losses of $14.7 million.

The FTC said older adults submitted over 26,518 fraud reports related to COVID-19 in 2020 with $104 million in reported losses.

Romance scams; prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams; and business impersonator scams caused the highest aggregate reported losses to older adults.

Sadly, romance scam victims are the ones who tend to lose some of the highest dollar amounts.

“They stay in a little longer, they send more payments, and sometimes they don’t really keep any track at all of the money that they are losing,” Harris said.

The scam squad not only keeps track, but also traces trends of the ever-evolving con.

Recently, officials have noticed that instead of a supposed online girlfriend or boyfriend asking for money for a plane ticket or to help recover from a disastrous situation, fraudsters are trying to convince their victims to make investments.

“What they are saying is ‘I am involved in this great investment and it would be great if you were in it too,’” Harris said.

Of course, the investment ends up being fake, but the victim doesn’t find out until it’s too late.

That’s why the proactive approach the Scam Squad said it’s trying to take is so important.

Our partners have information and tips for those who think they may be involved in one of these scams, as well as for suspecting family members.

It’s a hard conversation to have and you want to go about it the right way.

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