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'Scam Jam' in Pa. finds creative ways to help seniors avoid losing money

A man stands at a lectern and calls out numbers during a game of "fraud bingo."
Sydney Roach
Gary Iorfido (right) with AARP Pennsylvania calls out numbers during a game of "Fraud Bingo." Slides projected on the wall give examples of popular fraud schemes, such as scams targeted uninformed investors.

Local and state officials are finding creative ways to help seniors avoid scams. Prosecutors say they’re seeing more people lose money because of new technology and artificial intelligence.

The Centre County Office of Aging, along with the state’s Department of Banking and Securities, hosted a "Scam Jam" at the Nittany Mall in State College last Friday. The events are held across the state, but this was the first one in Centre County.

"Fraud bingo" was the main attraction at that Scam Jam.

"R24…Card Skimmers," called out Gary Iorfido, a member of the AARP Pennsylvania Consumer Issues Task Force, from the front of the room. As he read off the bingo square letters and numbers, he gave advice on how to spot and avoid scams.

Seniors play "fraud bingo."
Sydney Roach
Seniors play "fraud bingo" at the Nittany Mall in State College. The winner shouts "fraud" after winning.

"You wanna be careful if you go to a gas pump. For example, [if] you pay with your card, there's technology they can slip inside that little slot that will read your card and steal your information," Iorfido said.

He recommended paying with the card’s chip or by tap instead of swiping.

Once a winner gets bingo, they shout "Fraud!"

Yvette Ellis attended from State College. She said she was recently almost the victim of a scam involving her credit card and Amazon.

“I was giving information, but then I stopped in the middle of it. And I said, ‘Wait a minute, something don't sound right,’” Ellis said.

Ellis was able to avoid that scam, but others haven’t been so lucky.

Deputy District Attorney Megan McGoron told the story of a woman who lost $20,000 to an AI phone scam. She got a call that sounded like her grandson in need of money to get out of jail.

Seniors sit in a room while playing "fraud bingo."
Sydney Roach
Centre County Deputy District Attorney Megan McGoron speaks at a podium during "Scam Jam." She told the story of a woman who lost $20,000 to an AI phone scam.

“She was a very intelligent woman; she was just trying to help out her grandson. And she's like, ‘It truly sounded like him on the phone.’ And so they're finding ways to commit these crimes against vulnerable people," McGoron said.

McGoron said that scammer was arrested, but police weren’t able to retrieve the money.

To avoid scams like that, she recommended having a family password or verifying the call. She said to try calling that family member directly, or to call whatever agency is asking for money, like a courthouse or police station.

The next “Fraud Bingo” events in the WPSU area will be Tuesday, July 9. One will be at the Johnsonburg Senior Center at 10 a.m. and another at the Kane Senior Center at 11:15 a.m.

Copyright 2024 WPSU.

Corrected: July 1, 2024 at 10:24 AM EDT
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