A news release recently issued by the Ridgway-based state police cautions the public of to be aware of a new mail fraud scam which can steal both their money and their identity.
The release explains that a letter from a so-called "Senior Advisory Center in Harrisburg" has been sent to some area residents. The fake letter says that eligible applicants may receive up to $900 when they send in a response form accompanied by a check for $39. This tactic is identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an "Advanced Fee Scheme," where essentially a victim pays a sum of money expecting a greater amount in return.
By sending a check, the individual has made their personal information,including their financial information and bank account number as listed on the check, available to the criminals involved. This type of "found money" scheme is common, but the elderly in particular are targeted by them.
Trooper Bruce Morris, public information officer with the Ridgway PSP, said he forwarded the letter which originated from state police offices in Clarion and Cameron counties.
"The hook is its 'Senior Advisory Council' or whatever they use, it's just targeting senior citizens with a name they would think legitimate or reputable-sounding. Usually the older segment of our population, when they get anything in the mail that sounds like it's legitimate, they're more susceptible to go ahead and respond to it. The older generation is more along the lines of believing that information because it looks official, they don't recognize it as being a ruse, and that's why," Morris said.
The FBI says that senior citizens are more often targeted because they are more likely than the rest of the population to have savings, own their home outright, and/or have excellent credit.
According to the FBI website, "Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don't know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.