Monday, May 12, 2008

"Senior Crime Prevention University" Session

On May 9, 2008, the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal published an article entitled "Senior Crime Prevention University", which announced a session to be taught by a representative of the PA Attorney General's Office on Tuesday, May 13, 2008, in Columbia, PA, to educate senior citizens about various scams presented by "con artists".

On the "Public Safety -- Law Enforcement" webpage of the Commonwealth's Web Portal, under the subheading Crime Prevention & Safety Information -- Seniors, you can find three useful links aimed at online education of seniors to avoid "scams and fraud", including:

But the PA AG's Office also provides for periodic, personal education of older Pennsylvanians in short sessions held at various sites in the Commonwealth under the promotional name "Senior Crime Prevention University".
The Senior Crime Prevention University (SCPU) educates older Pennsylvanians and their families throughout the Commonwealth on crime prevention. Our goal is to make Pennsylvania's older population aware of the threat of fraud to the elder community, teach them how to avoid being victimized; and to make sure they know who they should call when they are concerned about their safety and well being.

Educating seniors about crime and how to avoid it is the best way we can help seniors to help themselves. The theme of the Senior Crime Prevention University is "AWARE, AVOID, ALERT".

We want to make seniors "aware" of the scams and frauds that are out there; teach them how to "avoid" becoming the next victim; make them "alert" and observant of their surroundings and situations they are facing; and, encourage them to report any instances of scam or fraud to their local law enforcement. * * *

The "Aware, Avoid, and Alert" prevention approach for senior citizens to avoid cons & scams would be applicable to anyone, regardless of age.

The next such session will be held on Tuesday, May 13, 2008, from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m., at St. Anne’s Retirement Community, 3952 Columbia Avenue, Columbia, PA 17512. The program will be open to the public and to St. Anne’s Residents, free of charge.

Reservations can be made, or directions provided, by the session's contact person, Christina George (Ofc: 717-285-6112; Email:

According to the recent article, the presenter will be Joyce O’Brien, community liaison for the Office of Attorney General.

Joyce will be conducting Senior Crime Prevention University, an interactive training session presented throughout the commonwealth by a newly created Elder Abuse Unit.

The program enlightens seniors about the latest scams used by con artists, tells them how to avoid becoming a victim, and arms citizens with important consumer information.

A new addition to the presentation includes important facts on identity theft, specifically how individuals can safeguard their good credit and protect their personal financial information.

Every year, across Pennsylvania and the United States, senior citizens fall victim to many kinds of consumer fraud, especially home improvement, telemarketing, foreign lottery and sweepstakes scams. With 2.5 million residents over the age of 60 and the third highest percentage of senior citizens in the nation, Pennsylvania is a desirable place for con artists.

With that in mind, the Attorney General expanded efforts to educate more seniors how to better protect themselves against fraud through his Senior Crime Prevention University program.
Representatives of the PA AG's Office make themselves available to conduct such sessions elsewhere, if invited, according to that Program's webpage.

If you would like to attend a Senior Crime Prevention University Program, or have your group host a presentation anywhere in Pennsylvania, please contact:

Joyce O'Brien
Senior Crime Prevention University
14th Floor
Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Telephone: 717-787-9716

Update: 05/20/08:

On May 19, 2008, The Lancaster New Era posted an article entitled "Stopping scams -- For often-targeted seniors, detecting a con artist starts with going back to school", by Mary Beth Schweigert, about the presentation in Columbia.

Joyce O'Brien can't save your life. But she can save your life savings.

First you have to go back to school.

O'Brien, a community liaison in state Attorney General Tom Corbett's new Elder Abuse Unit, leads free seminars packed with tips to avoid the most common scams targeting seniors. * * *

O'Brien, a community liaison in state Attorney General Tom Corbett's new Elder Abuse Unit, leads free seminars packed with tips to avoid the most common scams targeting seniors

Last Tuesday, O'Brien visited St. Anne's Retirement Community, Columbia, showing and discussing a video with is-it-a-scam

The program, called Senior Crime Prevention University, addresses an age-old adage.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," O'Brien says.

" ... We've got victims who've lost their entire life savings."

Pennsylvania is fertile ground for scam artists. * * *

"Actually, everyone is targeted," O'Brien says. "But it seems like more seniors fall victim to scams."

Many seniors, she says, are too polite to slam a door or hang up a phone. They tend to be more trusting, with a strong sense of charity.
Some are just lonely.

And crooks are very resourceful.
They read obituaries, then target grieving widows. They cruise the phone book for Ethels and Gertrudes. They look for homes flying American flags, or porch steps lined with artificial grass.

And their tactics can be incredibly convincing, like fake checks that appear realistic enough to fool the most discerning eye.
They announce that you've won a $5,000 prize. You just need to buy a year's supply of vitamins to claim it. Or they throw in a "free" gift.

SCPU attendee Bernice Benn, of Lancaster, was invited to an estate-planning seminar, complete with a complimentary lunch.
Benn listened to the pitch but wasn't convinced. Her lawyer confirmed her instinct to steer clear.

"You do have to be careful," Benn says. "Sometimes you get caught off guard." * * *
The article concluded with a listing of tips offered by the PA Attorney General's Office to prevent becoming the victim of a scam.

An additional scam was highlighted by the PA AG's Press Release, dated May 15, 2008, entitled "
Consumer Advisory: Attorney General Corbett cautions consumers about international long-distance telephone scam".