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Rebate scam targets property tax returns

Published June 14. 2013 05:04PM

Senior and disabled citizens throughout the Commonwealth are receiving letters offering them assistance in applying for Pennsylvania's Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.

The Senior Advisory Center, a California company with a Harrisburg post office box, has mailed out tens of thousands of offers to help Pennsylvanians fill out the rebate forms.

All they ask in return is a $39 processing fee instead of the 46 cents in postage it usually costs an applicant to mail the free form to Harrisburg.

The offer from SAC may fool some people into thinking it's from a government agency. It's not. It asks for your name, social security number and other pertinent information, such as, income, income tax return and property tax bills, same as the official state rebate form.

It even includes a disclosure form that reads, in part, "Pennsylvania law prohibits the Commonwealth from disclosing information that individuals provide on income tax returns and rebate claims, including social security numbers, except for official purposes."

Trick is, that disclosure applies to the state, not to SAC. Once they have your information, there is no guarantee as to how it will be used.

After receiving numerous complaints concerning SAC, State Representative Jerry Knowles wants his constituents to know there is no need for anyone to pay $39 to apply for a tax/rent rebate.

"The Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is one of five programs supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery. It is administered by the state Department of Revenue. The forms are free. It costs nothing to apply."

The rebate program benefits Pennsylvania residents age 65 and older; widows/widowers 50 and older; and disabled residents 18 and older.

Income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners or $15,000 for renters. Half of your social security income is excluded from the income limit. The deadline for applications has been extended until Dec. 31, 2013.

The forms are available at any state department of revenue office, local Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers and offices of state legislators. Rep. Knowles cautions "Don't waste your money or give the Senior Advisory Center your personal information. If you need help with the forms, my staff is always willing to assist you, for free."

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