By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item
Some scams prove so profitable that culprits keep using them.
One of the most prevalent — and popular — from the past year is referred to as the “Grandma, Help Me” hoax and recently many Valley seniors have reported getting such calls at all hours of the night and day.
One morning last week, Catherine H., of Lewisburg, who is in her 70s, received a call from someone who simply asked “Grandma?”
Without thinking, Catherine replied, “Andrew?”
Andrew is her grandson’s name.
The caller said yes, it was Andrew, and that he had been in an accident and needed her to send him $300. He told her she could go to the local pharmacy and purchase a money card then call him with the card number.
Where are you? she asked.
“Andrew” gave her an address that was not anywhere close to where he lives.
Still, she thought she was talking to Andrew. She told him she just got out of the hospital and was not allowed to go out, but maybe she could find someone to go purchase the card for her.
About a half-hour later, he called back and asked whether she had gotten the money card yet.
Catherine hung up and called her daughter, Andrew’s mother.
“I asked her if Andrew was all right and she said ‘As far as I know he is,’” Catherine said.
Catherine told her about the phone call.
The next phone call Catherine made was to local police.
“The police told me that if I got another call from ‘Andrew,’ I was to just tell him the police were taking care of it.”
Be suspicious of calls from unknown numbers or from strangers and do not engage in conversation. In this case, Catherine thinks she was tricked into giving the scammer her grandson’s name. Now that they have it, they may try to use it to scam her again. And she regrets revealing that she had recently been in the hospital, fearing the caller knows she is alone and housebound.
While old scams are still circulating, there are a number of new ones making the rounds, including schemes to get veterans to pay for help to apply for benefits.
The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs reminds veterans, active military personnel and their dependents should never pay for help to apply for veterans benefits.
“We’ve seen advertisements from businesses that offer veterans assistance in applying for benefits for free, and then end up charging a fee for financial planning services,’’ said Brig. Gen. Mike Gould, the state’s deputy adjutant general for veterans’ affairs.
“We need to get the word out that veterans should never pay for these services,’’ Gould said. “Free assistance is readily available from any accredited veterans service officer at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, their county director of Veterans Affairs, or through a chartered veterans service organization such as the American Legion, VFW, DAV, or AMVETS, to name a few.”
County directors of Veterans Affairs are accredited veterans service officers who provide veterans and their dependents assistance to identify and help determine eligibility for a wide range of veterans benefits, assist in the preparation of applications for county, state and federal veterans benefits and programs such as: the payment of burial allowances; ensuring grave markers and headstones are properly requested and placed; direct application for state programs like the Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax Exemption Program, Veterans Emergency Assistance, Blind and Paralyzed Veterans Pensions and the Education Gratuity Program; and federal health care benefits, service connected disability and non-service connected disability pensions, and survivor benefits.
To locate your county director of Veterans Affairs or for more information on other Veterans Service Organizations and to find out more about veterans benefits, visit the DMVA online at www.dmva.state.pa.us and click on Veterans Affairs or follow DMVA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/padmva or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/padmva.
Other scams to be on the alert about include:
n Bogus business disclosure statements. Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele reports some corporations have received fake notices, leading businesses to believe they must send $125 and file an Annual Meeting Disclosure Statement by a certain date, or risk being listed in “bad standing” with the state.
“At first glance, this solicitation may look official,” Aichele said. “However, none of the information being requested is required to be filed with the Department of State, or with any private company.”
The mailing comes from Pennsylvania Corporate Compliance Co., and includes near the top of the letter a direct citation from the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law regarding corporate records. Despite the suggestive language and official look of the mailing, Aichele emphasized there is no filing called an Annual Meeting Disclosure Statement required in Pennsylvania. She added this mailing did not come from any government office, and Pennsylvania Corporate Compliance Co. has no association with state government.
“Any official notices sent to businesses by the Pennsylvania Department of State or secretary of the commonwealth will contain the letterhead and/or contact information for the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations,” Aichele said.
She advised any companies receiving this mailing to disregard it. She also said similar scams have been reported in other states.
Any business that has questions can call the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations at (717) 787-1057 or email the bureau at email@example.com.
n Investment scams. Members of the Pennsylvania Banking and Securities Commission are urging senior citizens to exercise caution and seek information and advice from trusted sources when approached with unfamiliar, complicated investment opportunities.
“The financial marketplace is becoming more complex and we are seeing several products advertised as designed to assist seniors that may not be right for everyone’s situation,” said Glenn E. Moyer, vice chairman of the Commission and Secretary of Banking and Securities. “Reverse mortgages and annuities, for example, will work for some seniors, but not for all.”
For more information call (800) PA-BANKS (800-722-2657) or go online at www.dobs.state.pa.us.