Ohioans urged to protect seniors from affinity fraud

Across the country, older Americans are being encouraged to take part in activities promoting wellness and social interaction. While it’s true remaining socially engaged can improve the quality of life for older adults, at the same time, scammers will steal seniors’ money through affinity fraud, which exploits relationships built through common interests and activities.

These scams exploit the trust and friendship that exists in groups, including religious and ethnic affiliations, sports and other leisure activities, and business and professional groups. Seniors who join such organizations are especially vulnerable to these types of scams.

Because of the tight-knit structure of these groups, the scammer – who is a member or pretends to be a member – counts on the trust factor among group members. Oftentimes, the leader of the group is the first unsuspecting victim and unwittingly spreads the word among other members that the investment is legitimate, when in reality, it’s a scam.

Ohioans are urged to keep a watchful eye for signs of affinity fraud and to promptly report possible elder financial abuse to appropriate officials.

Here are some tips to reduce the chances of being defrauded:

  • Be sure to research the person’s background, as well as the investment itself – even if you know the person making the investment offer. The person telling you about the investment may have been fooled into believing the investment is legitimate when it is not.
  • Never make an investment based solely on the recommendation of a member of an organization or group to which you belong. This is especially true if the recommendation is made online. An investment pitch made through an online group or on a chat room or bulletin board catered to an interest you have may be a fraud.
  • Do not fall for investments promising little or no risk, “guaranteed” returns or unusually high profits. These are classic warning signs of fraud.
  • Avoid an investment if the promoter tells you they do not “have the time to put in writing” the particulars about the investment. You should also be suspicious if you are told to keep the investment opportunity confidential or a secret.
  • Be especially skeptical of investments pitched as “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities, particularly when the salesperson bases the recommendation on “inside” or confidential information.

If you or someone you know suspects they may be a victim of affinity fraud, call the Division of Securities’ Investor Protection Hotline at 1-877-683-7841. Tips for seniors to avoid being scammed can be found on the division’s website at: http://com.ohio.gov/documents/OlderAmericanFraud.pdf. Additional information and tips to avoid affinity fraud can be found at: https://www.com.ohio.gov/documents/AffinityFraud.pdf.

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