The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

March 26, 2013

Schemes target more than the elderly

— In these anxious and uncertain times, it’s not just our vulnerable elderly citizens who are being taken in by well-organized scammers and their well-thought-out schemes.

Some of us even find ourselves shying away from opening our daily mail or answering telephone calls.

Hardly a week goes by that we don’t read or hear about another plan to confuse us or that plays at our heartstrings while targeting our hard-earned dollars.

One of the latest schemes was detailed in a Monday news story by our David Hurst. Here’s how it works:

New homeowners are receiving “official-looking” letters requesting $89 to provide copies of property records that  easily can be obtained from county offices for a few dollars. The letters seemingly are coming from a local agency.

A Portage man, Jason Richardson, told Hurst that, at first glance, he thought he had received just another bill. Considering that Richardson had recently closed the deal on his house, the notice wasn’t that surprising, given the lengthy paperwork process involved in buying the home.

Fortunately, the man read the fine print, recognized it was a scheme and reported it.

Wise moves. Too many times, residents, in their haste, or because they are confused, succumb to miscreants’ plans.

And just as unfortunately, many are too embarrassed by their mistakes to report the incidents to law-enforcement and other officials.

That, too, obviously plays into the hands of these people. That and the fact that many area residents also do not read newspapers or listen to television new reports to become aware of schemes.

In addition to the many phone scams that have found success over the years, we’ve been made aware of mail scams that use official-looking headings and wording to prey on those receiving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – seniors in general and the elderly in particular.

Richardson said he called the Cambria County Recorder of Deed’s Office to alert them about the information – and “they called it a legal scam.”

But just because something is legal doesn’t make it right, he added.

Absolutely.

He has posted info about the letter on numerous local websites and his own Facebook account to spread the word.

“I just want to get the info out,” Richardson said. “People should know.”

We commend his efforts to alert others and we urge our readers to always be cautious when considering mail or telephone solicitations.

Check them out. And if you have questions, make sure they are answered.

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