The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 19, 2013

50 learn to be savvy shoppers

Staff writer
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Approximately 50 area residents gathered recently at the Sunbury Social Club to attend a Consumer University sponsored by AARP-Pennsylvania.

The half-day session featured presentations by consumer advocates who provided the audience with information and materials about the challenges people face as they shop and invest in today’s marketplaces.

Among the speakers was a postal inspector who cautioned about scams and the potential for identity theft that are encountered every day, whether in the mail, on the Internet or by phone. He said law enforcement agencies continue to track individuals and groups who “mine data” from personal and financial records, but urged consumers to be careful in responding to requests for personal information.

“If it’s too good to be true, it’s usually a scam,” he warned the audience.

Sunbury’s Police Chief Steve Mazzeo echoed that comment. He assured the audience that the local police department is a reliable first line of defense for individuals who suspect they have been scammed, defrauded or victimized by financial crimes.

Mary Bach, a consumer protection advocate who leads a consumer task force in the state for AARP, exhibited a number of household products that are bought by families every day, frequently unaware of the misleading or deceptive techniques manufacturers have used in marketing them.

She demonstrated changes that have occurred in the packaging of items such as ice cream, displaying quart-and-one-half containers of “frozen dairy dessert” that look deceptively like the two-quart containers of ice cream grocery stores used to sell. She pointed out that unwary consumers often end up paying a higher price for what they think is ice cream, but really isn’t, and they don’t get the benefit of their bargain.

Sonny Popowsky, a long-time consumer advocate with the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, provided the audience with an explanation of what is involved in choosing suppliers of residential electricity. He offered a number of tips for conserving energy to reduce families’ monthly electric bills.

In addition, a representative of Pennsylvania’s Department of Banking and Securities educated the audience about some of the fraudulent marketing techniques that consumers may encounter as they endeavor to save and invest money for retirement.

The program included a lunch provided by AARP as well as an opportunity for attendees to shred documents.

AARP-Pennsylvania, located at 30 N. Third St., Suite 750, Harrisburg, is available to provide Consumer University programs or speakers for local groups in other communities that are interested in learning more about issues facing consumers. For information, call the Pennsylvania Securities Commission at (717) 787-8061 or toll free at (800) 600-007 and ask for the Investor Education Section, or call the AARP-Pennsylvania office toll free at (866) 389-5654.