‘Guardian angels’ help stop elder scam


By J Swygart - jswygart@limanews.com



LIMA — Elder Victim Ministry, a program of Crime Victim Services, recently blew the whistle on an attempt to scam an 86-year-old Lima woman out of thousands of dollars.

Due to timely intervention from unlikely sources that included Crime Victim Services advocates, a local taxi driver and employees at the UPS store in Lima, the victim’s family was able to stop the scammers and begin battling for the return of money already swindled.

Kathy O’Neill, the elderly victim’s trustee, said Crime Victim Services Advocates are “guardian angels” because if they hadn’t intervened, the woman — who asked to remain anonymous — would have lost her life savings.

According to Elysia Bush, director of Elder Victim Ministry and CVS guardian programs in Allen and Putnam Counties, Elder Victim Ministry learned of the scam through a taxi driver from Black & White Cab Co. who transported the victim from a bank to the UPS Store so she could send more money to the scammers.

The victim told the cabbie she was getting calls from people who were doing building work and said they needed more money, even though she’d already sent them $20,000 over the last two years. The cab driver told his superiors, who contacted EVM with their concerns.

UPS Store employees Nicole Lindsay and Linda Burtchin at the Elida Road branch were concerned about the elderly woman who was constantly coming in and sending cashier’s checks. They contacted Robert Fisher at Adult Protective Services, who collaborated with EVM on the case.

O’Neill said if it weren’t for these concerned citizens, her loved one “would be financially destroyed.” She discovered the victim had been conned into sending 10 cashier’s checks and gift cards with hundreds of dollars on them to out-of-state individuals. The scammers had infiltrated the victim’s computer, obtained the contact number on her bank account and her Social Security number.

EVM Advocate Sherry Smith coordinated efforts between the victim’s family and law enforcement and $123,000 of the total $165,000 scammed has been returned to the victim. The perpetrators have not been identified.

“This story exemplifies why it is important to regularly check your bank accounts and credit reports for fraudulent activity,” Bush said. “For adults over 60, Elder Victim Ministry advises family members to keep a watchful eye over their elder’s accounts. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, far more shopping and activities are online, putting consumers at risk of online scams.”

To report a scam call 419-222-8666.

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By J Swygart

jswygart@limanews.com

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