Attention Financial Aid Students!
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is warning students and their families to be cautious of financial aid scams that could expose them to significant financial loss and identity theft. For example, PA State Grant awards are determined by a student’s financial need. Therefore, these grants can never be offered as a prize nor can anyone be promised or guaranteed to receive an award.
In one recent situation, scammers were fraudulently representing themselves as PHEAA employees in order to collect personal information by claiming that a student had “won” a PA State Grant award. This was not the case. The most effective way to avoid becoming the victim of a scam is to be alert and vigilant when asked by anyone to provide any form of personal information or when engaging in financial transactions.
Other recent scams include:
Student loan payback scams - Companies or individuals claim to help reduce or eliminate student debt in exchange for money. However, many of these offers are fraudulent, while others are unnecessary and should be avoided when no-cost assistance is available from your loan servicer and other government resources.
Tuition scams - These involve someone claiming to work for your school's administrative office. They call to warn that your tuition is late and you risk being dropped from class unless you pay immediately. If you are contacted about anything involving money, end the call immediately and contact your school directly in order to check the status of the alleged problem.
Unnecessary fees for service - Beware of anyone charging a fee in exchange for completing an application, a scholarship, debt counseling, or almost anything else. In most cases, it is either a scam or you are being charged for something that you can easily access for free.
Credit cards - While not necessarily a scam, aggressively solicited credit cards tend to be loaded with bad terms, expensive fees, and high interest rates. However, some of these solicitations could be an identity theft or phishing scheme. If you must have a credit card, take the initiative to control the process and search for the card offering the best terms and borrower protections.
It is no secret that scammers tend to prey on individuals who are struggling financially and may feel desperate for some kind of assistance. Today’s sophisticated and accessible technologies help scammers make fraudulent pitches seem legitimate, so everyone needs to be especially vigilant in order to avoid becoming a victim.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends the following tips to avoid scams:
- Never release your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID credentials to anyone.
- Never send money or provide personal information in response to an unexpected request, whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.
- Verify a company or product by using the internet to research its existence and reputation. Search for the name of the company along with words such as "review," "complaint" or "scam." You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as being associated with scams.
- If someone asks you to pay in advance for debt relief, credit, loans, mortgage assistance, a prize, or a job opportunity - don't believe them.
- Talk to a friend. Scammers want you to act quickly. Slow down, take your time. Never be pressured into making a decision quickly.
- Be careful how you pay. Credit cards have some fraud protection built in, but other methods, such as money transfers, don't. Government offices and honest companies won't require you to use such payment methods.
- Beware of free trials. Often, they'll take your credit card information and, after the trial period is finished, will automatically bill you unless you cancel.
- Don't trust caller ID, which can be manipulated. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call a phone number that you can verify as genuine.
- Ignore any pitch in which you are promised to receive a check or a money transfer. The check can easily be faked, but it may take weeks to be detected.
- Hang up on robocalls. If you hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint. Responding in any way can identify you as a target and encourage more calls.
- Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at www.ftc.gov/scams. If you believe that you have been targeted or victimized by a scam, please contact the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, the CFPB or the FTC.
Voter Registration Deadline
Anyone wishing to vote in the May 15 Primary Election needs to be registered no later than Monday, April 16.
The simplest way to register is to do so online by visiting www.votespa.com. If you’re already registered but need to change your address or party affiliation, you can also do that online. You may also download a paper application or visit one of my district offices. All paper applications need to be postmarked no later than April 16 and should be mailed to:
Allegheny County Elections Division
542 Forbes Avenue, Suite 609
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-2913
Any additional questions can be directed to the Allegheny County Elections Division at 412-350-4500.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2017 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received an application in the mail. Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30 and rebates will be distributed beginning July 1. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Upcoming Shredding Events
I want to alert everyone about two upcoming shredding events. The first is scheduled for this Saturday, April 7, together with Representative Dan Deasy and Green Tree Borough. It will be held in the parking lot at Green Tree Park from 9 a.m. – noon. Then next Saturday, April 14, along with Rep. Deasy and Crafton and Ingram Borough officials, we are hosting a second shredding event in the parking lot at Crafton Park from 9 a.m. – noon.
Documents at both events will be shredded on-site by a reputable and bonded company. Also, all papers must be loose, no binder clips or paper clips, and documents cannot be in binders.
With consumer fraud and identity theft continuing to be an issue, we are hosting these events to not only to raise awareness and promote prevention, but also to provide individuals with the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed free of charge. You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.
Mentored Youth Trout Day This Saturday
The start of the 2018 fishing season, kicked off on March 24 with the first of two Mentored Youth Trout Days in southeastern PA. The PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is holding the second this Saturday, April 7. Now in its fifth year, the popular program provides adult mentors with an opportunity to take kids fishing before the traditional rush of the regional and statewide opening days of trout season.
Beginning at 8 a.m. this Saturday, participants can fish in any PFBC stocked trout water. Kids can keep two trout, which must measure at least seven inches. Mentors must have a fishing license and trout stamp. Because the program is focused on kids, adult mentors are encouraged to fish with the children and provide encouragement and tips, but they must release their catch to the water unharmed.
A majority of the trout waters will be stocked in advance of the mentored youth days but some of the waters may not be stocked in time due to weather, water conditions and scheduling logistics. Also, special regulation areas, like Catch and Release Fly-Fishing Only or Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only, are not included in the mentored youth program. Anglers can visit the PFBC stocking page for an updated list so they know exactly what waters are being stocked. For anglers with smartphones, an even easier way to view the stocking schedules is through the FishBoatPA app, which is available for free from the Apple App and Google Play stores.
To participate, adult anglers (16 years or older) must have a valid fishing license and trout/salmon permit and be accompanied by a youth. Youth anglers must obtain a free PFBC-issued permit, or a voluntary $1 youth fishing license. Both are available at www.GoneFishingPA.com or at any of the more than 900 licensing agents across the state.
For every voluntary youth license sold, the PFBC will receive approximately $5 in federal revenue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Act program, which provides funds to states based on a formula that includes the number of licenses a state sells. All revenues earned from a voluntary youth fishing license will be dedicated to youth fishing programs.
More information about Mentored Youth Trout Days can be found by clicking here.
Did You Know…
Did you know that Pennsylvania has nearly 16,000 miles of wild trout streams, nearly 5,000 miles of stocked trout streams and over 125 stocked trout lakes?
Duquesne Light Networking/Career Event
Duquesne Light is hosting an information and networking session for their Electrical Distribution Technology (EDT) program this Thursday, April 5. The program begins at 5 p.m. and is being held at the Westin Hotel, located at 1000 Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
Duquesne Light’s EDT program teaches the skills and knowledge needed to apply for skilled craft positions in the electrical utility industry. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with Duquesne Light professionals and learn more about the EDT program. For more information, please visit www.duquesnelight.com/careers and register using requisition ID 10981.
Castle Shannon Stream Cleanup
The Saw Mill Run Watershed Association is hosting an Earth Day stream cleanup in Castle Shannon. The cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, April 21 from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Volunteers will be meeting at the James Street parking lot, just off Willow Street behind Someone Else’s. Registration is not necessary.
Participants will be pulling all non-natural debris from the stream and the stream banks. The Saw Mill Run Watershed Association will provide gloves, safety vests, and trash bags. The event will be rain or shine. For more information please contact Lisa Brown at email@example.com.
Walk for One Promise
The Pittsburgh Promise promotes high educational aspirations among urban youth, funds scholarships for post-secondary access, and fuels a prepared and diverse regional workforce. The Pittsburgh Promise depends on the generosity of our community to ensure educational opportunities for Pittsburgh's kids.
On Saturday, April 21, 2018, you can help them provide scholarships to deserving Pittsburgh students by joining their 5K Walk for One Promise to raise awareness and essential scholarship funds. Visit www.pittsburghpromise.org/walk for more information and to sign up!
Fundraiser for Easterseals
On April 19, Easterseals Western and Central Pennsylvania turns back the clock to the 1920s with its first annual Speakeasy, a fundraising event held at the Heinz History Center. This event includes food, all museum access, including the Smithsonian featured American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, live music, and much more!
Easterseals works day in and day out for those one in five individuals who have one or more disabilities. Anyone can be affected by disability. For nearly 100 years, Easterseals has been and will continue to be the indispensable resource for the members of our community. This is not your typical organization. Easterseals is you, your family, your neighbors, your colleagues, and your friends- working together.
Please visit www.eastersealswcpenna.org or facebook.com/eastersealswcpa to learn more. Anyone with questions can call 412-281-7244 Olivia (ext. 1221) or Becky (ext. 1229) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
With the calendar turning to April, that can only mean one thing – the start of another baseball season. Anyone who’s ever been to a ballgame knows the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is traditionally sung during the middle of the 7th inning. What many may not know is that it was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert von Tilzer, both of whom had never been to a baseball game.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212