HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – There are roughly 800,000 Pennsylvania veterans. Roughly 70 percent are over the age of 55. Pennsylvania’s large elderly veteran population makes the commonwealth a prime target for scammers.
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) is warning of a scam targeting our nation’s heroes.
“Older Pennsylvanians, older veterans in particular, are a prime target for scammers,” said Joel Mutschler, Director of Veterans’ Programs and Outreach at DMVA.
He says scammers are targeting older veterans eligible to receive pension benefits, also known as “pension poaching.”
“Pension poachers target our veterans, survivors and family members that may be eligible for those benefits,” said Mutschler.
Mutschler says even though there are a few different signs that suggest you may be dealing with a pension poacher, there’s one that stands out more than any other.
“Just anybody that’s asking for compensation for completing veteran benefit claims. Know that they should never pay for that help,” said Mutschler.
Mutschler says poachers will often pose as a veteran service officer, someone who helps veterans with benefits for free.
“A veteran service officer is there to ensure that veteran or that family member is getting every benefit that they’re entitled to,” said Mutschler.
He says anyone who contacts you via email, social media or handwritten correspondence asking for compensation to help apply for benefits, is likely a poacher.
“Do not give information out to an individual unless they are an accredited veteran service officer, and if there’s a question as to whether they are or not, folks can reach out to us through veterans.pa.gov,” said Mutschler.
If you think you’re dealing with a pension poacher, he says to contact the Pennsylvania Attorney Generals Office.
“As we approach World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, it is important to remind veterans and their advocates to be vigilant when dealing with their benefits, and make sure to always use the free assistance of an accredited veteran service officer,” said Mutschler.
According to the DMVA, there are approximately 200 accredited veteran service officers in Pennsylvania who work within organizations such as the DMVA, county veterans’ affairs offices and several veterans service organizations.
If you suspect, or have experienced a pension scam, DMVA recommends following one of these steps:
- Call (717) 783-1944
- Email PAvets@attorneygeneral.gov
- File a complaint online by following the “Submit a Complaint” link from any page of the www.attorneygeneral.gov website. When choosing this option, use the “consumer form” and check the box indicating that the complainant or immediate family member is a military member or a veteran.
- The consumer complaint form can be accessed at: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint/consumer-complaint/