MEDINA, Ohio (WJW) — The Scam Squad, a new partnership with federal state and local authorities, aims to protect victims from scams and help recoup financial loss.
“People are getting scammed by relatives, their court appointed guardians, they’re taking advantage of grandpa,” said Medina County Prosecutor’s Office Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Condosta. “There are so many levels of scam, financial fraud, people calling saying they’re a bank the IRS, emails, letters.”
Launching next week, scam victims can call the Scam Squad at 1-877-SCAM-550. Callers will be connected to investigating agencies.
Condosta said there are so many different kinds of scams the squad’s goal is to not only report the crimes, but educate the public about how to avoid becoming a victim. He recalled a local case with a $180,000 dollars loss, far from the average.
“On average for Ohio … people over the age of 60, the average loss is $18,000 dollars and that’s money they’re never going to get back,” he said.
Scammers target people of all ages and education levels. Condosta said recouping financial loss is difficult but not impossible depending on a variety of factors including how quickly the crime is reported to investigators.
“FBI agents have impressed upon us expediency is so important,” Condosta said. “Within three days, they can probably get it, but after three days it makes it almost impossible each day that you wait to inform the authorities.”
Laura Toth the Director of the Medina County Office for Older Adults, part of the Scam Squad, said scammers are successful in part because victims are often too embarrassed to report the crime.
Toth reports 30% of referrals her office receives are people financially swindled. A recent report included a victim who lost nearly $80,000 dollars in an internet scam. She is hopeful the Scam Squad’s educational efforts will prevent future crimes.
“You really need to ask questions, you need to follow up, make phone calls, ask your relatives, people you trust, before you click that link or before you make that phone call,” said Toth.
Prior to its official launch several incidents were reported to the Scam Squad. Condosta, who will respond to victim’s calls, encouraged more people to come forward.
“Don’t be afraid, you’re not the first person to be scammed and you won’t be the last,” he said. “If you report it, there’s a chance we can make a difference, not only for you but for other people.”