Dallas, Luzerne County -- Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and other state leaders came to Misericordia University on Monday to talk about an epidemic targeting Pennsylvania's enormous elderly population. "Our office receives 2,000 phone calls on the senior abuse hotline every single year. That is a staggering number. And that's just our office," said Ms. Kane. She says many of those calls concern scams aimed at seniors. The Attorney General says one of the biggest lately is sweepstakes fraud.Eyewitness News told you about one intended victim earlier this month when 71-year-old Addie Bearde of Kingston received a call claiming she won $2.5 million but needed to supply a prepaid shopping card to the caller. She didn't fall for it. "Don't go along with any of that nobody gives that kind of money away," said Ms. Bearde. But many elderly do fall prey to scams including many that investigators haven't been made aware. "A lot of people don't report it so we're concerned that there is still a lot out there that we don't know about," said PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. Ms. Kane added, "By reporting it not only are they protecting themselves and their own assets but they're protecting their neighbors and their friends and a bunch of other people."
People like Terry Fitting, a retired Lake Winola woman. She once received an email claiming her brother and sister-in-law were injured overseas and that she needed to send them money through a third party. "It looked legit. If he was a person who traveled I would have thought it was legit," said Ms. Fitting. It's stories like hers that inspired State Representatives Karen Boback and Phyllis Mundy to co-found the Elder Abuse Task Force of Luzerne/Wyoming Counties in 2008. Rep. Boback (R) 117th District was especially moved after learning one of her constituents was defrauded thousands of dollars through a phone scam. "That was the eye-opener and I thought not in my district, not in my state. Let's start doing something about it."
Rep. Boback is sponsoring a free Senior Expo on August 8th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Misericordia University's Banks Student Life Center. The event will feature services, activities and information available to seniors in Luzerne, Wyoming and Columbia Counties. Meanwhile, the PA Attorney General's office as set up a toll-free phone number and a website for anyone to report suspected elder abuse. The Elder Abuse Unit Hotline is 1-866-623-2137. The website is www.attorneygeneral.gov