The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 19, 2013

Speaker: Scammers target seniors. Be aware

By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News

DANVILLE — Janene M. Holter wasn’t there to scare senior citizens but to educate them.

On Monday, She warned those at the Montour County Senior Center of scams related to charitable contributions, sweepstakes, estate planning, checks and money orders, home improvements and more.

Charitable contributions, whether requests come by phone or through the mail, are one of the biggest problems, said Holter, senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s education and outreach program. Holter, who provides free programs for students and adults, said this was the first time she spoke at the Danville center.

“I want you to make really good decisions on who you give money to,” she said.

Scammers can buy fake caller ID boxes and type in the name of a charity that will show up on a caller ID, she said. “Just because it shows up doesn’t mean it is actually them. Don’t give personal information over the phone.

“Don’t give credit card, checking account or savings account numbers over the phone,” she said.

“If you get labels, tablets or pens in the mail, it doesn’t mean you are obligated to send money,” Holter said. “You worked very hard for your money. Be very careful about what organization you donate to. Donate to charities you are familiar with in your own community,” she said.

Of sweepstakes, she said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

Scams include a caller saying a person won a car or a Jamaican lottery. “The caller says all you have to do it pay the tax and they will deliver the car to their home. Do you really think they’re going to drive a brand new car to the house?” she said.

Regarding estate planning with a free dinner promised when attending a program, she said estate planning people try to scare seniors. “If you sign up for something and a family member says it’s not in the best interest for you, you have three business days to break a contract,” she said.

She told seniors to beware when it comes to landscaping, roofs and other home improvements.

“If you need work done on your home, use someone registered. If they are registered with the attorney general’s office, we know where they are located, how many employees they have and how much insurance they have,” Holter said. “Get everything in writing — when the work will start, when it will end, how many days it will take and the cost.

“In Pennsylvania you only have to pay one-third of the total cost when giving a deposit unless there is a special order,” she said.

In Carbon County, a nice young couple paved a woman’s driveway. “She didn’t want it paved but felt obligated to pay the $450,” Holter said. The couple found the location of  the woman’s safe, which she left unlocked. The man asked to use the bathroom while the women chatted. The man stole $80,000 from the safe,” Holter said.

In another instance, a man posing as an oil company employee told an elderly woman she qualified for a free oil burner cleaning on a Saturday. He ended up stealing $72,000 from shoe boxes she had under her bed.

“If you didn’t call them, do not let them in,” Holter said, “even if they have a badge on. The man had to have known where her money was. If you need to call the police call them — don’t think it will be a bother — that’s their job,” Holter said.

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