Janene M. Holter, Senior Supervisory Special Agent of the Office of Attorney Generaland a Tamaqua Area High School graduate, recently spoke to local residents on the numerous scams, rip-offs and frauds that are being perpetrated and which particularly target senior citizens.
The main focus of the seminar was to educate citizens on how to protect their private information and to question how easily we are to part with it.
The seminar covered such areas as home-improvement scams, sweepstakes, lottery and charitable contribution scams as well as estate planning schemes.
Holter identified the various communications methods used by scammers to reach out to potential victims in such ways as U.S. mail, email, phone calls and face to face contact. She also noted that you can not trust that people are who they say they are and represent the company or organization of which they claim.
"Be really careful about criminals. The dynamics of our society is changing unfortunately," said Holter.
Fake caller ID boxes can be easily purchased on line and can be programmed to transmit a local phone number of an organization that you may be familiar with when in reality, the call can be coming from across the country or from some other part of the world with the sole purpose to deceive you and rob you of your money.
Scammers can easily create authentic looking emails, business cards and mailings that are intended to either gather your personal information or your hard earned cash and rob you of either, or both.
Holter gave some important tips to help citizens avoid becoming a victim of a scam:
Ÿ Banks and credit card companies will never contact you or email you to verify your account information – they already have it. If someone asks you for it, hang up or delete the email. If you are unsure, call the phone number that you usually use to contact that company and discuss the communication with them.
Ÿ There is no international lottery. If you are contacted saying that you have won but need to send money for any reason in order to collect it, it's a scam.
Ÿ Unless you made an appointment for someone to come to your house for a repair, a meter reading or an estimate, don't open your door. Allowing them into your home leaves you vulnerable to have your identity, credit cards, cash and personal belongings stolen.
Ÿ Shred documents that contain your personal information before depositing into the trash.
Ÿ Deal with local and verified charities and contractors. Also, be sure that contractors are registered and can provide you with their PA registration number. Then verify their registration at www.attorneygeneral.gov.
Ÿ Always have someone you trust such as a family member or attorney look over any contract that you sign.
Ÿ Under Pennsylvania law, you have three business days to break a contract if you decide that it is not in your best interest to proceed.
Ÿ When designating a Power of Attorney, be sure your name is still on all accounts and monitor them regularly.
Ÿ Be careful when selling things at yard sales and online. Deal with cash only or only release your sale item to the purchaser after the check or money order has cleared the bank. Do not allow people to play on your sympathies.
Additionally, with the new health care mandates going into effect, beware of scammers offering to help you navigate you through the process for a fee. If you are contacted, hang up.
Said Holter, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
If you feel that you have been a victim of a scam or fraud, contact the free Senior Hotline at 1-866-623-2137.