Don't fall victim to phone scams

Andrea Rose For Echo Pilot

Imagine picking up the phone to hear a frantic voice claiming to be your grandchild asking for help. In the panic of the moment, your instinct may be to put down the phone, grab your wallet and start rattling off a few credit card numbers before thinking too much about it.

But doing so will likely make you a victim of a scam where callers prey on senior citizens.

"Through our local 52 Area Agencies on Aging representing all 67 counties, local law enforcement and elder abuse task forces, we often hear of these types of scams," said Drew Wilburn, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

At least one Waynesboro senior is familiar with the desperate grandchild scam.

"They called me three times. I didn't recognize the number and didn't answer, but after the third time, I answered. The person on the other end said, 'Grandma, I need money.' I said, 'Who is this?' he said, 'It's your grandson.'"

The grandmother, who didn't want to be identified, said she was wise enough to know it was a scam and hung up, but some senior citizens may not be as suspicious — and lucky.

According to Wilburn, there were 24,586 reports of such elder abuse statewide. "We are striving to improve our data collection to identify specific types of scams," he said.

The issue has caught the attention of federal legislators.

The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, recently released a report entitled, “Fighting Fraud: U.S. Senate Aging Committee Identifies Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors."

According to the report, the top 10 scams include: IRS impersonation scams; sweepstakes scams; robocalls/unwanted phone calls; computer tech support schemes; identity theft; grandparent scams; elder financial abuse; grant scams; romance scams/confidence fraud and home improvement scams

Local law enforcement agencies warn residents to protect themselves.

"It can be nerve-wracking when someone who claims to be a family member is asking for something," said Ryan Tarkowski, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police. "The best thing to do is hang up. Try to contact that family member using a number you know. It's always better to be safe than sorry."

Tarkowski said when it comes to any kind of potential scam, trust your gut. "Never give away any personal information, credit card information or your Social Security number over the phone," he said.

And, if you fall victim to a scam and have sent money or provided personal information before you realized you'd been had, don't be ashamed. "Definitely call your local police department and file a report," Tarkowski said.

If you feel you have been targeted by a scam, alert a trusted friend, family member or person in your life. Or call your local Area Agency on Aging or the Statewide Elder Abuse 24/7 hotline at 1-800-490- 8505.

If you fell victim and had money stolen, call your local police department and file a report.

Contact Andrea Rose at or 717-762-2151 or on Twitter @AndreaCiccociop