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I-Team: Pandemic slows, scams don’t

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HAZELTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s the latest pandemic related scam showing up across our region— a scam alert for area residents about getting “free money.”

Investigators tell Eyewitness News this is a prime example of the phrase, “If it sounds to good to be true… It probably is.”

“They could be calling anybody. They could be calling the elderly that aren’t so knowledgeable and they would give their information out and end up losing everything in their account,” said Dave, Hazleton Area resident.

Dave called the I-team to get the word out about a scam call he received this week.

“I received a call saying they were from department of health services, stating that due to good payment in my bills, I was a candidate for a $14,500 dollar grant right away. I thought something is not right,” said Dave.

They told him all they needed was his personal information and the money was his.

“He said if I gave him either my credit card number, or a prepaid credit card number, or my bank account number, it would automatically be deposited in my account.”

“This is a scam, and unfortunately, it’s working on some people. Don’t fall for it,” exclaimed Trooper Anthony Petroski, PSP Hazleton.

State police say these scammers sound real. In this case, they claim to be from the department of human services. The DHS, a state agency that oversees health facilities in the commonwealth. Scammers can put any phone number on their call to try to perpetuate this scam or any other scam.

“Unfortunately, they are using technology to their advantage that’s why you see a local number come up on your phone,” said Trooper Petroski.

Troopers say the best way to protect yourself is to just hang up.

“Don’t give out personal information: date of birth, Social Security number, PIN numbers, account numbers…Don’t give that out. Hang the phone up on these people.”

The press secretary from DHS sent Eyewitness News the following statement.

“DHS and other government agencies do not ask for information about public-assistance programs via unsolicited or random calls or texts, and Pennsylvanians should not reply to such a call or text or share any personal information if they are contacted in this way — especially when the calls or text messages solicit personal information, such as bank account information or Social Security numbers. If you or anyone you work with receive unsolicited or random calls or text messages telling you that you qualify for assistance and then asking for personal information, it is most likely a scam. Do not respond. Delete the message so you do not get caught in an identity theft scam,” Erin James, press secretary of DHS said.

“Pennsylvanians who have questions about whether a call, text, letter, or other communication is legitimate should contact DHS’ Office of Income Maintenance. Clients in Philadelphia should call the Philadelphia Customer Service Center at 215-560-7226. Clients in all other counties can call the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930.”

State troopers say if you do fall victim to a scam like this, immediately call your bank, freeze your account, call your credit card companies and notify law enforcement.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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