Dec. 09, 2019 / Newspaper Columns

By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) 

December is the busiest time of year for shopping, and the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities is urging the public to be aware of criminals that gain a victim’s trust and then steal their money.

The holiday season is a time when people might be more in need of a loan or other type of quick cash. An advanced fee scam occurs when a con artist uses slick presentations via phone, email, classified ad, website or social media to trick victims into paying large upfront fees for bogus loans, contracts, loan modifications, investments, lottery winnings or other promises of free money. The criminal takes the fee and then disappears.

Here are five tips on how to avoid becoming a victim:

  •   Never pay upfront for a loan or credit, especially by wire transfer or to another country. Such payments are extremely difficult to recover or trace.
  •   Research with whom you are dealing before taking any action. Check license status by calling 1-800-PA-BANKS (800-600-0007) or searching the company name at
  •   Don’t believe in a guaranteed loan. Legitimate lenders never guarantee a loan before you apply, especially if you have bad credit, no credit or a bankruptcy.
  •   Never pay a “finder’s fee” upfront for suggested financing arrangements.
  •   Be cautious of a business contact that uses a post office box, mail drop or no direct phone number you can call.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, so far this year in Pennsylvania there have been 3,044 reports of prize/sweepstake/lottery scams, which are all a type of advance fee scam. Because victims are reluctant to report a scam, the number is likely much higher.

Representative Tarah Toohil
116th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
717.260.6136 /