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Pennsylvania

State: Elderly should be extra vigilant against scams during holidays

Stephen Huba
| Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, 4:03 p.m.

State officials warn seniors to be extra vigilant against scams during the holiday season.

Scammers exploit the holidays as a season of goodwill to defraud the elderly out of their money, said Robin L. Wiessmann, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Banking and Securities.

“With the holiday season upon us, scam artists will undoubtedly increase their efforts to take advantage of individuals — particularly senior citizens — preying on emotional connections to commit fraud,” Wiessmann said. “We urge all citizens across the commonwealth, regardless of age, to exercise serious caution before sending any money across state or international borders.”

Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne warned especially of the “Grandparent Scam,” in which a senior receives a call from someone claiming to be a grandchild who is in serious trouble and needs money quickly. The success of the scam hinges on the recipient’s sense of familial obligation and willingness to help, along with the pressure of the request requiring immediate action.

Some new twists on this scam include:

  • Targeting parents rather than grandparents
  • Requesting money be sent to a bonding company
  • Personalizing the scam through information gleaned online and through social media
  • Requesting cash be mailed rather than wire transferred

Wiessmann and Osborne said the following steps can be taken as protection from scams:

  • Don’t send money right away . A hallmark of financial scams is the pressure to act quickly, but the truth is there are few, if any, “emergencies” that require thousands of dollars and immediate action.
  • Contact a trusted family member using a known phone number , not a number given by the person calling.
  • Communicate with family members about travel plans . If a grandchild is traveling abroad, be sure to have a legitimate phone number where he or she can be reached.
  • Ask a question only the family member would know . Talk to the caller and ask about details only a family member would know, such as the name of a childhood pet, a birthday present or a detail about a recent visit.
  • Don’t share too much information on social media .

Any person who believes that an older adult is being financially exploited may file a confidential report with any Area Agency on Aging , or call the statewide abuse hotline at 800-490-8505.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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