Senator Brooks Warns of Fraudulent Activities

Senator Michele Brooks is warning local residents of fraudulent activities that have been taking place in the 50th Senatorial District and across Pennsylvania. Her office has received inquiries and complaints from persons targeted by fraud. If you suspect you are the target or victim of fraud, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of her offices, so that she may assist you in contacting the Attorney General’s Office.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, people should be aware that no federal or state government agency will ever call you to demand payments of any kind. If individuals owe any government agency money they will always receive an official letter, which can be verified through a phone call, before taking action. Local utility companies have similar set procedures for collecting outstanding payments.

Also, no agency that awards grants will call or send e-mails soliciting money or requesting personal banking information. Requesting personal banking information over the phone or email should be a red flag warning you of a likely scam. Hang up or delete the e-mail. Remember the old adage, if something seems too good to be true – it probably is.

IRS Scam

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is tracking cases of a new type of pervasive telephone scam that aims to defraud taxpayers. The well-known “IRS scam” has reemerged recently, but this time fraudsters are posing as U.S. Treasury agents.

Those targeted in the “IRS scam” are typically told they are entitled to large tax refunds, or that they owe money and must pay immediately. The scammers call often and are aggressive and persistent to pressure consumers to take action.

These scammers may seem legitimate by referencing a consumer’s personal information that is not publicly available. Sometimes this information may have been stolen from companies that were victims of hackers.

Consumers should remain calm and verify their tax status directly with the IRS by calling (800) 829-1040. They should also report these scams to local law enforcement and to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Hotline, which is available toll-free at (800) 366-4484.

Utility Scams

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is warning consumers to be cautious of telephone scams involving energy bills and remind consumers of utility shut-off procedures.

In a recent scam, residents and businesses in parts of Pennsylvania were targeted by callers who claimed to be from their electric company and alleged that they had an unpaid bill. The caller requested immediate payment over the phone to avoid termination of electric service.

Utility companies never call about a payment on the day of a scheduled termination. Residential customers will receive written notice 10 days in advance and commercial customers will receive notice three days prior to termination.

During winter months (Dec. 1 through March 31), if a utility company cannot reach a consumer at the time of termination, they will leave a 48-hour notice at the residence. Additionally, utility companies cannot terminate residential service from Friday through Sunday. More information on the Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act is found on the PUC website. www.puc.pa.gov.

Internet Scams

As computers and the Internet have become more integrated with our daily lives, a whole new array of fraudulent activities has arisen. Using the Internet, scam artists and disreputable businesses are hoping to trick people into disclosing personal information through official-looking e-mails or pop-up messages.

They may ask for your Social Security number, your bank account information, your credit card numbers, your passwords or other personal information. The problem is slowly becoming an epidemic and people must be extremely careful with whom they are dealing with online.

According to the FTC, scam artists typically send an e-mail message that falsely claims to be from a business or group with which consumers may have a relationship. The message usually asks recipients to “validate” or “update” account information, and may threaten to terminate an account if the consumer does not respond. The message may direct recipients to update their information on a website that looks real, but is not.

To avoid getting hooked by a scam, the FTC recommends the following:

  • If you get an e-mail or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies will not ask for this information via email.
  • If you are concerned about the status of your account, contact the organization in the e-mail using a telephone number you know to be legitimate.
  • Do not send personal or financial information via e-mail; it is not a secure method of transmitting such information.
  • Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from e-mails, regardless of who sent them.
  • Use and update your computer’s anti-virus software and install a firewall. E-mails may contain unseen attachments that can harm your computer, but installing appropriate security measures can help protect you from accepting such unwanted files.
  • Review bank account and credit card statements to look for any unauthorized charges.

The Internet is a great resource for information and an excellent way to stay in touch with family and friends, but the increasing number of online scams should be a warning. Consumers who wish to report suspicious activity to the FTC can visit the agency’s website at www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Once again if you believe you are the target or victim of fraud please do not hesitate to contact any of Senator Brooks’ offices so she can assist you in contacting the Attorney General’s Office. Senator Brooks can be contacted through her website at www.senatorbrooks.com or via phone: Her office numbers are as follows:

  • Harrisburg: 717-787-1322
  • Greenville: 724-588-8911
  • Vernon: 814-337-8132

Edinboro: 814-734-2783