As our economy remains unstable at best, and people who can’t find jobs stop looking (deflating the jobless figures), some turn to scams to fool a vulnerable portion of the population – senior citizens.
Scams can happen to anyone, but many statistics show that senior citizens are favorite targets for the scam artist. Once prominent in highly populated urban areas, the scam artist is finding more and more targets in rural areas; including our region.
Home repair cons sometimes go unreported. The driveway coating/sealing scam where the loss is sometimes $100 or less is common. The finished driveway always looks good – until the first rain.
House painting and roof repair work is another popular scam. Several men in a pick-up truck knock on the door and tell you they have leftover materials from another job and offer to do repairs on your home to make extra money. Sometimes they even have kids in the truck with them. Beware - this could be an opening for a burglary or home invasion. After all, who could refuse anyone (especially a child) a drink of water on a hot day?
The home invasion isn’t usually performed by an armed thug. Rather these types of home invasions are committed in the daytime while the homeowners are present. Entrance is through a window or back door or while an accomplice is distracting the homeowner at the front door. It can be fast and you won’t even know it happened until you notice something missing.
Insurance frauds are even popping up in the area. Staged auto crashes and “slip and falls” are committed with little detection because the settlements are usually made quickly and for cash. The amounts are not outrageous and the property owners involved are eager not to have an insurance claim on their record.
Then there’s the meter-reader scam where someone knocks on your door claiming to be a worker from the water or electric company who needs to enter you house to read the meter. Most meters are on the outside of the house and many are read electronically. Ask for identification and call the utility to see if they have people working in the area before you even think about letting them in.
And we can’t forget the great national utility scam of 2012. According to a police report, imposters would contact electrical customers through telephone calls, mail, fliers, email, text messages, social media and in person. The imposter convinced the customer to relay personal information by claiming that the victim is eligible to receive cash benefits from a government program. After the victim provided their social security number, credit card number, and bank information, the victim was given a bank account and routing number to use when paying utility bills. The victim was told the account is set up through a federal assistance program that will provide up to $1,000 toward the victim’s utility bills.
There was no such program and thousands of Pennsylvanians had their identities stolen in the scam.
There are so many different scams that criminals will use to separate honest people, especially senior citizens, from their badly needed money.
These incidents are becoming weekly occurrences in our region. Be aware of the scams and notify the police of any suspicious goings-on in your neighborhood.