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How some scams succeed

March 24, 2009

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- There's an old saying that cautions if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That is still the case today.

A 70-year-old Fulton County, Pa., man was reminded of that in January when a telephone caller told him he won the Jamaican Sweepstakes.

Pennsylvania State Police in McConnellsburg reported that the caller told the man he was responsible for paying the taxes on the prize. The man sent money but never received the prize.

The pay-the-taxes-on-lottery-winnings scam is one of a few old favorites that unscrupulous people use and authorities say senior citizens are a favorite target.

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Ronald Wayne Taylor, president of SALT of Washington County, offered examples of common schemes of which seniors should be aware:

o Several men who show up at a senior's house and say the paved driveway could use a coat of sealer.

The men say they just finished a job nearby and have some sealer left over. Instead of using sealer, the men spread used motor oil on the driveway and tell the property owner not to step on it for an hour.

The men collect $200 and leave the area.

o A couple of men approach an older person outside a house and warn the person that it looks like his or her roof is damaged.

One man goes into a room with the senior and his accomplice goes to another room and uses a spray bottle to squirt water on the ceiling.

Then the two men point out the water mark on the ceiling and tell the senior it is a sign of a roof leak.

The men claim they can get up on the roof and fix it quickly. The men get up on the roof, maybe do a few things, and come back down.

They collect $250 from the senior citizen and leave.

"It happens all the time," Taylor said.

-- SALT, an acronym for Seniors and Law Enforcement Together, provides information and conducts seminars designed to keeps seniors safe, and to warn them about fraud and exploitation.

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