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Scammers shifting tactics, targeting immigrants coming to Northeast Ohio

Posted at 11:50 AM, Dec 21, 2022

CLEVELAND — Identity theft has been a growing problem in the bustling age of technology, but scammers are shifting their tactics and primarily, their targets. Local officials have noticed a rise in crooks targeting immigrants who can be some of the most vulnerable targets due to language and cultural barriers.

“We had a friend from Afghanistan who received a phone call from a number he didn't know, but they said that they were affiliated with an organization here in Northeast Ohio,” said Global Cleveland president Joe Cimperman. “They asked him to go to Walmart and get some gift cards and then transfer them on the computer. And he did it for $500.”

Cimperman said Global Cleveland has cut off more than a dozen of these kinds of scams in the last several months. He wants people in Cleveland’s international community to understand the power of the pause and understand how being a little skeptical can go a long way,

“If it doesn't seem right, it's not right. It's okay to say, 'can I call you back?,'” Cimperman said.

Scams to trick victims out of their identity are growing more and more elaborate each year. Cyber criminals are targeting immigrants or those who are new to the area who might be unfamiliar with common practices and protocols.

But the crooks cash in on more than just money, robbing victims of their pride and sense of security.

“You just don't want to see people being taken advantage of, manipulated and certainly not when they're new to this country,” Cimperman said.

Northeast Ohio is also home to many fleeing war-torn Ukraine and they’re also being targeted by thieves and crooks out to snatch what they can from an unsuspecting victim.

Patrick Espinosa is a managing partner at the Sus Abogados Latinos Law Firm and says he’s noticed an uptick in the rackets posing as fake sponsors.

“People need to come here so bad for those countries, they're super easy targets,” Espinosa said. “I've had clients tell me that they've been having sponsors charge them to be their sponsor, which is totally fraud and it's totally a scam.”

Experts say pay close attention to who is in your inbox. Watch out for red flags like poor grammar in emails and, of course, be wary of anyone asking for payment in gift cards.

“Not only do people get scammed out of money, but they also get scammed out of time,” Espinosa said. “I have some clients that they thought an immigration process was being done. They were paying money. And it turns out that not only they lost the money they had given, but they lost five years of the process.”

Apps like Venmo and CashApp are convenient for quick transfers among friends, but Consumer Affairs reports increased activity on those platforms from scammers could force the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to crack down on the misuse of these apps.

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