SCRANTON — Members of the Wolf Administration recently held a community forum in Scranton to provide older Pennsylvanians with the tools they need to protect themselves from becoming victims of financial fraud.
Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne and Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell traveled to the Scranton Jewish Community Center to lead a community discussion on steps the Wolf Administration has taken to protect older Pennsylvanians from scams and financial exploitation. The town-hall style event also afforded those in attendance the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their own experiences with two cabinet secretaries.
“There are many types of financial fraud scams that target seniors,” Osborne said in an emailed news release. “The Wolf Administration is committed to protecting seniors, which means involvement. And in order to prevent seniors from becoming victims of financial fraud, we must educate them on what these scams are, how they work and where to call for help.”
Osborne said that older adults are less likely to report financial fraud. She said they often don’t realize they have been scammed or they don’t know who to report it to. In other cases, Osborne said, they may be too ashamed or embarrassed to report it, in part because they worry that their relatives or friends will think that they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
Hassell outlined the warning signs of several prevalent scams, including one that involves cyber criminals stealing client data from tax professionals and filing fraudulent tax returns in the name of identity theft victims.
The cabinet members told of a new twist to the scams: rather than routing fraudulent tax refunds to a separate account, the criminals are directing the refunds to the taxpayers’ real bank accounts through direct deposit. They are using threatening phone calls to trick taxpayers into “returning” the refunds, but unsuspecting victims in some cases have forwarded the money to the criminals. The Department of Revenue has issued tips to avoid being victimized.
“The department routinely hears from taxpayers who are in a difficult situation where their identities have been stolen,” Hassell said. “This is particularly common early in the year when Pennsylvanians are working to file their personal income tax returns. We want everyone to be aware that these scammers are out there, and that there are steps that you can take to protect your personal information.”
If you are a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent Pennsylvania personal income tax return was filed using your identity, contact the Department of Revenue’s Fraud Investigation Unit at 717-772-9297 or [email protected]
The Department of Aging encourages any person who believes that an older adult is being financially exploited to file a confidential report with any Area Agency on Aging. You can also call the statewide abuse hotline at 800-490-8505.