MOUNT VERNON — Your phone rings at home and someone tells you they are a relative and need $10,000 to avoid having to go to jail. Or someone emails you saying you are the winner in a sweepstakes of $1 million and is requiring a payment of $500 for processing fees. Problem is, there never was a relative going to jail or never was a $1 million sweepstakes. And if you fell for their high-pressure trick and sent the money they were asking for, your money is now gone ... you have been scammed.
Reports of fraud like these are heard in the news on almost a daily basis, and unfortunately there are numerous innocent victims that are falling prey to these well-planned schemes.
One way of combating this type of crime is a local SALT council (Senior and Law Enforcement Together) which currently serves Knox County as a sounding board to seniors in the community. The council hears the concerns of seniors and then communicates these issues to law enforcement so that they are better equipped to meet seniors’ needs. The group meets the second Thursday of each month at 2 p.m. at The Station Break.
Hearing about opportunities to educate local citizens on the dangers of fraud, Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher contacted the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Center requesting a speaker come to
the Station Break to address the subject of how seniors can avoid becoming victims of fraud. Arranged as a speaker was Manilath James who later responded in asking if Knox County would become involved in hosting a consumer education forum as part of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s efforts in recognizing National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10.
“This forum is of interest to seniors, but it’s not for seniors only,” said Thatcher. Hosted by the SALT council, the forum will take place Friday, March 9, from 1-3 p.m., at the Knox County Memorial Theater. The day’s agenda will begin with a senior resources expo where participating agencies will have booths set up where they can share their information with those visiting the forum. An introduction and welcome session will begin at 1:20 with a panel discussion on consumer issues beginning at 1:30. Visitors will have the opportunity to ask questions of those taking part in the panel presentation.
Issues that will be addressed in the forum may include the following:
•What are the biggest scams targeting Ohioans today?
•What should people do to protect themselves from scammers?
•Who should people go to for financial advice?
•Where can people turn to when in a financial bind?
•What programs or events can be helpful in preventing fraud?
Represented will be the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Department of Insurance, Ohio Treasurer of State, Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio Consumers Council, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Knox County Prosecutor’s Office, Mount Vernon Police Department, SALT council and others.
Free blood pressure checks will also be available through the Knox County Health Department.
Thatcher shared a statistic from a survey conducted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office which stated that 64 percent of Americans do not have enough cash available to cover a $1,000 emergency.
“People live from paycheck to paycheck. So very few of us can afford to have a scammer cheat us out of our money without it being devastating,” said Thatcher.
Follow-up measures may be taking place with the SALT council after the National Consumer Protection Week forum as a way of keeping residents informed of ways to identify and avoid fraud.
“Our intent is to help all Knox Countians become educated and learn to identify scams and avoid them, so they don’t become the victim of a financial crisis or a crime,” said Thatcher.
For more information, call Knox County Victims Assistance at 397-3404.