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County Hall Corner: Hammer the Scammers!

Yet another one of the very sad offshoots of the COVID shutdowns has been a serious uptick in scammers. In the past few months, county and state government officials have warned the public more and more frequently about the new and improved flimflam artists. Even my Federal Social Security Benefit Statement included a large “Scam Alert” at the bottom of the form.

The con game has developed dramatically since the infamous Nigerian prince who was willing to share twenty percent of his fortune if you would just be willing to send your bank info so he could house his millions. That is a kindergarten-grade scam by today’s standards. Scammers now are much, much more clever.

My recent experience is typical. I was surprised when a friend started texting me on Instant Messenger as he did not have an account before and is not very tech-savvy. We exchanged “how you doing?” type messages a couple of times, and then I got one where he told me that he got $150,000 from the ongoing Emergency Financing and Debt relief program. He wrote, “They are giving out a free grant offer specifically placed to help people maintain the standard of living and eradicate poverty among people through the pandemic both retired, working, disabled, able, old and young…”

It sounded like typical government verbiage, but I had no interest in the program. When I did not respond to my friend, he shared he knew another person who got $200,000 and that I should call his contact immediately (first name and phone number provided) before the program closed.

For the next couple of days, I kept getting texts about how I needed to get in on this great deal. I responded with “thanks” and attributed his persistence to that of an overzealous friend. That was until we ran into each other on the street, and he told me that the texts were not from him. When I showed them on my phone, he was shocked! Someone created an account in his name and was obviously engaging his acquaintances totally without his knowledge.

Just a few days later, another friend shared with me how an individual who identified himself as a bank official called to tell him that his account had been attacked and the hackers had all his financial information. The caller wanted to ‘review’ all his data so the bank could help him through this hack. His very wise wife overheard this and got him to hang up in time before the damage was done. He followed up and confirmed that the bank had not initiated any ‘review.’

PA State Representative Jeff Wheeland noted in a recent e-newsletter that residents should be aware that there is an effort to create fraudulent unemployment program claims or attempts to log into existing claims to redirect benefits payments. Fraudsters are working to steal peoples’ usernames, passwords, unemployment Personal Identification Numbers (PINs), and Social Security numbers. They use calling, texting, emailing, and other means of social media.

In addition, the e-newsletter noted that the PA Department of Labor and Industry has reported that anyone who received a 1099-G form for unemployment benefits they did not apply for is likely the victim of a widespread national unemployment fraud issue and should take the necessary steps to report the fraud and protect their information.

The examples could go on and on. Unfortunately, the deceivers are becoming more and more sophisticated, which means that the rest of us have to be more and more cautious and alert. There are places to go to verify inquiries. is a very helpful site where a specific scam can be researched. The official Pennsylvania government website:, has a “Report Fraud and Identity Theft” page. And if you should be caught in fraud, report it to the Federal Trade Commission; report

As my wise father once told me, “Larry, if it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” When in doubt, check it out.

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