HAZLE TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- According to the government, seniors in our country are scammed out of nearly $3 billion a year.
The main target of scammers is the elderly. The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has a fraud hotline you can call to report scams. The second-most calls to the hotline in 2018 came from right here in Pennsylvania. Only Maine had more.
The five most common types of scams reported were:
- people impersonating workers at the IRS,
- robocalls and other unsolicited phone calls,
- sweepstakes scams,
- computer tech-support scams that encourage you to pay for bogus security programs on your computer,
- elder financial abuse trying to bilk the elderly out of property or assets.
So how can you protect yourself from scams?
A seminar was held at the Laurel Mall near Hazleton on Thursday to educate seniors on how to spot and report scams. The bottom line is, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Online phone and door to door scams were all topics touched on by law enforcement at a scam seminar at the Laurel Mall.
State Representative Tarah Toohil says these scams are a big problem for senior citizens in Luzerne County and across the state.
"It's a huge problem in our community. It doesn't always just happen to seniors, obviously. Any age, younger and younger people are using technology," said Rep. Tarah Toohil, 116th District.
Many scams trying to steal your information are disguised online as surveys, coupons, or contests.
"Unfortunately, these scams aren't going anywhere. Technology is helping these individuals who are doing the scamming, so educating our community is important. We want (them) to realize when they are trying to be scammed that they are, so they can stop it and not become a victim," said Trooper Anthony Petroski, Pennsylvania State Police.
Seniors in attendance tell Newswatch 16 they were aware of some of the scams talked about, but they also learned about new ones making their way through our area.
"There's new scams coming, and I did get two that I was leery about," Wilma Laskosky said.
One of those scams was a phone call she received around the same time she gets a daily call from her daughter.
"The phone rang twice, I picked it up, and the lady says, 'hello, how was your day today,' and I knew it wasn't my daughter's voice, so I hung up right away," Laskosky said.
State police say if you think someone is trying to take advantage of you, log off or hang up and contact police.
"Our message today is don't be embarrassed. We want this reported, and we can set trends with other trends, with other scams going on, and at least stop you from being scammed anymore," said Trooper Petroski.
Rep. Toohill says her office and the state troopers will hold more seminars like this one throughout next year. They will also be holding one for English and Spanish speakers sometime soon in Hazleton.