PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Because George Weimer is disabled, he qualifies for a rent rebate and the staff at State Senator Jim Ferlo’s office is happy to help him fill out the forms.
But in the past few weeks about 400,000 elderly and disabled Pennsylvanians have gotten a solicitation in the mail offering to get them that rebate for a $39 fee.
Ferlo is outraged.
“I resent the fact that people can be taken advantage of when they can come to any of our state offices and receive this information and get this assistance for free,” he said.
Ferlo has contracted the state Attorney General to investigate the California-based Senior Advisory Center which mails the solicitations from a Harrisburg post office box.
“It may or may not be illegal, but it certainly is predatory and it certainly is immoral,” Ferlo said.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan called the 1-800 number, reaching California and the owner, Richard Plaisted, who told him he is providing a legitimate service.
“I’m not sure what’s immoral about preparing a tax return. H&R Block does it. Other companies do it. People can pay a fee to receive a service — anything from having your oil changed or having someone mow your lawn.”
But at the Better Business Bureau, they’ve given the company an “F” rating, saying they are preying on a vulnerable population.
“They’re targeting senior citizens and people that may have handicaps,” Warren King, with the Better Business Bureau, said.
King says the letters come now every year like a well-known pest.
“It’s kind of like the stinkbug,” he said. “You know that the stinkbug is going to come at the end of fall. Well, you know these letters are going to be sent out when the deadlines come.”