State agencies warn of cryptocurrency scams targeting older adults


COLUMBUS – The Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC) and the Ohio Department of Aging are warning Ohioans of a growing trend of cryptocurrency scams targeting older adults. During the course of drug-related investigations, the ONIC became aware of these types of financial exploitations against older adults and worked in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Aging to bring awareness by issuing a public bulletin today to encourage older Ohioans, family members, and caregivers to be on alert.

Cryptocurrency is a form of digital or virtual currency that operates like coin and paper money and can be used for payment methods or sending and receiving funds. Two of the most popular forms of cryptocurrency are Bitcoin and Ethereum. These scams ask individuals to pay in cryptocurrency or through cryptocurrency automated teller machines (ATMs).

Scammers are often in constant communication with their targets, guiding them through the process until the payment is made. Some common types of scams targeting older adults include:

Romance scams: scammer “meets” the target either online or by telephone, develops a relationship, and then requests a loan or financial help.

Government impersonation scams: scammer pretends to be from a government agency, calls the target, and threatens arrest if payment is not immediately made.

Grandparent scams: scammer pretends to be a grandchild of the target, states they are in trouble, and need money immediately.

“Recently ONIC has assisted several local law enforcement agencies with their cryptocurrency scam investigations,” said Andy Wilson, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. “Our agencies issued this bulletin to raise awareness about the dangers of these new scams targeting older Ohioans. We are working closely together to make resources available for consumers who believe they have been a target.”

ONIC’s analysts and digital forensic personnel have highly specialized training and expertise that enables them to assist law enforcement with connecting the dots on these complex cases.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided the following information to best avoid cryptocurrency scams:

Cryptocurrency Scam Indicators:

No legitimate business is going to demand you send cryptocurrency in advance of a purchase or to protect your money. If the individual does, this could be an indicator of a scam.

If you meet someone on a dating site or app and they want to show you how to invest in cryptocurrency or asks you to send them cryptocurrency, this could be an indicator of a scam.

Prevention Tips:

Before you invest in cryptocurrency, search online for the name of the company or person and cryptocurrency name and also include words like “review,” “scam,” or “complaint” to see what others are saying.

No legitimate business or government will ever email, text, or message you on social media to ask for money, and they will never demand that you buy or pay with cryptocurrency.

Never click on a link from an unexpected text, email, or social media message, even if it seems to come from a company you know.

“Despite the fact that older adults are more likely to report suspected fraud than younger adults, scammers are finding new and sophisticated ways to deceive people, like these emerging cryptocurrency scams,” said Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel J. McElroy. “I encourage older Ohioans and their loved ones to make it a point to stay up to date as these threats evolve; learn about the latest types of scams, share that knowledge with friends and family, and always check financial statements to make sure there are no unauthorized charges.”

Older Ohioans and their caregivers can find more information and resources on protecting themselves from scams by visiting: Scams That Target Older Adults and Stop Scams Before They Start.

For local services and support for older adults and caregivers, call 866-243-5678 to be connected to the area agency on aging serving your community.

If you feel you’ve been the target of a scam, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. If you have lost money or feel unsafe because of a scam, contact local law enforcement.

Governor DeWine signed an executive order in July 2019 creating ONIC, a specialized criminal intelligence unit to assist local law enforcement in conducting intelligence-driven drug trafficking investigations. Operated as part of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, ONIC has locations in Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, and Cincinnati. ONIC’s criminal intelligence analysts and computer forensic specialists provide investigative, analytical, and digital forensic support to local law enforcement agencies and drug task forces throughout Ohio.

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