A large number of senior citizens qualify for property tax and rent rebates. The rebates are possible because of money the state has made on the Pennsylvania lottery. The rebates amount to several hundred dollars.

Wherever there's money, you'll find hustlers and con artists.

The property tax and rent rebate forms can be filled-out for free at senior citizen centers and at the offices of some state lawmakers.

Many take them to their income tax preparers.

State officials warn that firms are trying to take advantage of the vulnerability of seniors by offering to fill out the forms for a fee often for as much as $45.

Sometimes these firms contact the seniors by telephone and confuse them by asking if they're sure they're getting their full rebate. Mailings to seniors offering such a service at inflated prices also has been reported.

There are several problems with the scenario.

One is that these firms have fast-talkers who con the seniors into sending them their personal financial information.

The other is that they're charging an exorbitant fee for a form that takes 10 or 15 minutes to complete.

The forms are easy enough that in many cases seniors either can fill them out themselves or have family members help them.

Seniors should be warned about these profit-making firms who are trying to make a buck at their expense. Of major concern is that seniors are sharing their financial and personal information with total strangers. This can be a recipe for disaster.

It's so unfortunate that such outside companies prey on senior citizens. What's just as unfortunate is that too many seniors fall victim to their tactics.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com [1]