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Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs Warns Residents of Family and Friend Impostor Scams

12/17/2018


Media contact: Miranda Pomiecko: (216) 698-2546mpomiecko@cuyahogacounty.us 


CLEVELAND – 
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs and its Scam Squad partners are warning residents that scammers are reviving an older form of payment: They’re asking victims to send cash in the mail. 


New data released by the Federal Trade Commission shows that a quarter of those 70 and older who lost money to family and friend impostor scams this year mailed cash. 

Family and friend scams include grandparent scams, in which a sobbing caller poses as a grandchild who needs bail or fine money after a DUI or texting-related accident. 

“Only a scammer would tell you to pay bail or fines with money wires, store gift cards or mailed cash,” said Sheryl Harris, Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs.

Legitimate government agencies don’t accept money wires or store gift cards as payments and they routinely advise citizens who want to pay by mail to do so with checks or money orders, which are secure and traceable. 

“Never send cash in the mail,” advises Cuyahoga County Treasurer Christopher Murray.

Impostor scammers specialize in pretending to be family members, but they may also pose as IRS agents, police or court officials to scare people into making quick payments.Victims are usually warned to keep the transaction a secret. 

“Panicked people have trouble thinking clearly,” Harris said. “We want residents to know they should always check with someone else—the police, a Scam Squad partner, or a family member—before they make a payment in response to an urgent phone call.” 

If a family member has mailed money to a scammer, immediately alert their local police or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (1-877-876-2455 and say “fraud”) to try to stop delivery.

Cuyahoga County residents who are unsure about a call’s legitimacy can call the Scam Squad line, 216-443-SCAM (443-7226), for assistance during regular business hours. 

The Cuyahoga County Scam Squad is a senior financial fraud task force made up of local, state and federal agencies and nonprofits. Scam Squad partners include: the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the IRS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the FBI, the Cleveland Police Department, the Lakewood Police Department, City of Lakewood Human Services, the Cleveland Community Relations Board, the Cleveland Department of Aging, the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging, the Cleveland Office of Fair Housing and Consumer Affairs, the Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services, the Cuyahoga County Department of Development, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, the Cuyahoga County Treasurer’s Office, the Cuyahoga Department of Consumer Affairs, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Benjamin Rose Institute, the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland, ESOP, Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, the United Way of Greater Cleveland 2-1-1, AARP, Apprisen, Cleveland Housing Network, Home Repair Resource Center, the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and ProSeniors.

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The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.