By Melissa A. Powers, Hamilton County Prosecutor
We live in a world constantly being reshaped by technology. It seems like only yesterday, we were buying our first flip-phones and thinking how futuristic it felt to be carrying these devices in our pockets. As technology progresses, so too do the opportunities for criminals and scammers to use it for nefarious purposes. For the past few months, my office has been operating a hotline (513-946-SCAM) that allows Hamilton County residents to report scams and schemes. Today, I’d like to share with you some tips based on what we’ve seen that can help you stay vigilant against cyber criminals and scams.
First, be careful who you allow access to your computer and electronic devices. We store an incredible amount of personal information on our computers and phones, so it is no surprise that criminals are constantly seeking access to them. Treat your computer and your phone like you would your bank card, ATM password, Medicare or Social Security numbers. Do not give anyone access to them, for any reason, unless you know them personally. Especially be cautious of people who want to take remote access over your computer. If you are having a problem with your computer or smartphone, consider bringing it in person to a reputable place like the Apple Store or your cell phone provider for servicing.
Second, be hyper-vigilant whenever the topic of cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin) comes up. Reputable businesses, charities and other service providers will never ask for payment in Bitcoin or any other non-US currency. One of the common themes we see on our 946-SCAM line is people being asked by scammers to pay for goods and services (that they will never actually receive) with Bitcoin. Also, be suspicious of anyone who asks for payments to be sent by depositing money in a Bitcoin ATM. An entire edition of this newsletter could be devoted to Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency and most people (young and old) would still struggle to understand what it is, so be skeptical when the topic comes up.
Third, be vigilant for scammers using Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs to mimic voices or images being sent to you. AI presents some wonderful opportunities for society, but criminals can use it to create voice and visual recreations of family and loved ones for the purpose of deception as well. Listen carefully to voices calling from unknown or suspicious numbers for signs they are being faked. Also, consider having a “family password” known only to your closest relatives that you can ask for over the phone to verify identity in serious situations.
Technology has made the world a better place in many ways, and it has enriched the lives of many older adults. Good digital behaviors can go a long way towards keeping it a safe way to stay connected with family and friends and to do business from the comfort of your home. And, if you see something suspicious online or while using your phone, be sure to call 513-946-SCAM and report it!
About Prosecutor Powers
Melissa A. Powers, Hamilton County Prosecutor, has dedicated her career in public service to keeping the most vulnerable members of the community safe, including older adults who may be the victims of fraud, scams or other crimes. Prosecutor Powers created Hamilton County’s first Elder Justice Unit in 2023, with a team of experienced and dedicated attorneys and professionals who assist in prosecuting crimes against the elderly and help facilitate connections to community resources and supports for victims and their families. The Prosecutor’s Office is proud to have formed partnerships with public and private agencies, like Council on Aging, to deliver a full continuum of quality services that safeguard older adults and dependent adults in Hamilton County.
If you have any questions about a crime against an older adult in Hamilton County, please call the Elder Justice Unit helpline at (513) 946-SCAM (7226).
To report crimes against older adults in other parts of Council on Aging’s service area, contact the following resources: