(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – During Older Americans Month in May, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning Ohio senior citizens to be cautious of job opportunity scams that could cost them thousands of dollars.
"In these tough economic times, offers to work from home can seem like a good way to earn money," said Attorney General Mike DeWine. "We want to warn Ohio's seniors to be on guard against scammers who want to take their money instead of providing a work-at-home opportunity."
According to the Attorney General, consumers in their 70s, 80s, and 90s increasingly report entering into Internet business opportunities, such as operating a "web mall," selling credit card processing machines, or taking lessons to learn how to start a business. In certain cases, consumers spend as much as $10,000 to $20,000 on the venture, but make nothing in return.
A typical job opportunity scam begins when a consumer receives a telephone call or an email offering the opportunity to work from home or start a business. The salesperson tells the consumer that he or she must sign a contract and provide credit card information up front in order to get started. In most cases, the salesperson makes false promises that the consumer will "get rich quick."
Once the consumer provides a credit card number, the company begins making charges. Most consumers do not realize that the contract's fine print authorizes excessive charges with some consumers reporting thousands of dollars of charges beyond those authorized in the fine print. Consumers also report that they never receive materials for the business, they can never reach the salesperson again, and they never receive a single check.
"Remember that if a job opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is," DeWine said.
Consumers should take the following steps to protect themselves:
- Be suspicious if a caller asks you for your credit card information up front or promises that you will "get rich quick."
- Research the company offering the job opportunity. Search for the company on the Internet, the Attorney General's website, and with the Better Business Bureau to see if other consumers have reported fraud.
- Carefully read every document the company sends to you to understand your obligations. Do not sign the contract unless you are confident that you want to agree to the document.
- Discuss the job opportunity with a family member or trusted friend to determine whether it is a good investment.
- Warn elderly relatives that they may receive phone calls or other solicitations from job opportunity scammers and instruct them to never give out credit card information over the phone to an unknown caller.
In addition to avoiding job opportunity scams, DeWine encourages older Ohioans to beware of sweepstakes scams and grandparent scams. Since January 2011, the Ohio Attorney General's Office has received more than 1,900 sweepstakes or prize complaints, many of which are scams that cost Ohioans millions of dollars in reported losses. During the same timeframe, the office also received about 175 reports of the grandparent scam, with victims reporting an average loss of $5,700.
To combat these and other scams, the Attorney General's Economic Crimes Division has been investigating and targeting scammers who prey on Ohio's senior citizens. Created in March 2011 within the Consumer Protection Section, the Economic Crimes Division works to identify potential criminal cases and works with local law enforcement to aid in their prosecution.
If you have been a victim of a job opportunity scam, or any other fraudulent activity, contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
Dan Tierney -- 614-466-3840
Eve Mueller -- 614-466-3840