COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sweepstakes scams cost Ohioans about $2 million in 2011 as gauged by complaints made to the state last year, state Attorney General Mike DeWine said Thursday.
His office's consumer protection division logged nearly 1,500 complaints about sweepstakes and prizes scams in 2011, DeWine said in a release.
DeWine said his office is seeking stronger tools to go after people and companies conducting those types of scams and other forms of fraud against consumers.
Senate Bill 223, unanimously approved last month by the state Senate, would give DeWine's office more power to go after suspected scammers involved in Internet theft cases, Lisa Hackley, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said Thursday.
The proposed legislation would give the attorney general the power to ask for phone and Internet activity records, as well as online payment information in suspected Internet fraud cases. DeWine's office has said that scammers often use websites like eBay and Craigslist to fleece people.
American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Executive Director Chris Link has said that such measures make it easier for law enforcement to access personal information.
The bill, which is now in the House, also would create additional penalties for telecommunications fraud against the elderly and disabled persons, Hackley said. She said the bill has passed the House Criminal Justice Committee but has not been voted on by the full House.
DeWine's office also is working with law enforcement around the state to increase prosecutions of those who conduct scams on Ohioans. The attorney general last March formed his office's Economic Crimes Division, which has investigated dozens of cases resulting in nine people being charged with felonies. So far, six of those charged have entered guilty pleas and been convicted in counties including Hamilton, Greene, Coshocton and Stark.
Sweepstakes or prizes made up the eighth most common complaint category on the list of the top 10 complaints made to the consumer protection section in 2011, DeWine said.
The top complaint category on the list was motorized vehicles, followed by collections, credit reporting or financial services in second place and Internet or phone complaints in third. Those three categories held the same rankings in the 2010 list of complaints, with sweepstakes or prizes also holding the eighth spot on the 2010 list.