Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Protecting Consumers: State AG Shapiro Gets Busy Busting Bilkers

* When he was running for state attorney general, Josh Shapiro promised to make consumer protection a top priority. He’s making good on that promise — not only by prosecuting a Burgettstown funeral home owner over her alleged mishandling of client money but by educating consumers about the questions to ask when purchasing funeral services in advance and by enlisting other eyes and ears in a wide-ranging fight against consumer exploitation.

* In office only a few weeks, Mr. Shapiro has been busy on the consumer-protection front. On Feb. 2, the attorney general’s office posted a video with Mr. Shapiro and Glenn Parks, an elderly Lancaster County resident who was duped into sending more than $200,000 to a “Jamaican lottery” scam through Western Union.

* There’s no shortage of traps to ensnare the consumer. It helps to have the attorney general on the case, along with all the allies he can muster.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Protecting consumers: State AG Shapiro gets busy busting bilkers

When he was running for state attorney general, Josh Shapiro promised to make consumer protection a top priority. He’s making good on that promise — not only by prosecuting a Burgettstown funeral home owner over her alleged mishandling of client money but by educating consumers about the questions to ask when purchasing funeral services in advance and by enlisting other eyes and ears in a wide-ranging fight against consumer exploitation.

This is important work. Consumers, especially those who are elderly and financially unsophisticated, need all the help they can get.

Over 9 1/ 2 years, Lynn Taucher, owner of Taucher Funeral Home, failed to establish individual escrow accounts for 49 clients who made $340,000 in advance payments for funerals, according to Mr. Shapiro’s office. Instead, she mingled the clients’ money with her own, partly for gambling purposes, the attorney general said. She also is charged with forging a signature and unlawfully acting as an insurance broker. One of her attorneys, Jeffrey S. Weinberg, said Ms. Taucher has assets to cover the 49 funerals.

During a press conference Thursday at Washington, Pa., city hall, Mr. Shapiro offered common sense tips for those considering advance payments for funerals. Consumers should compare prices at various funeral homes. After selecting one, a consumer should get an itemized list of costs and information about the escrow account established in his or her name, including the name of the institution holding the funds.

More important, he used the case to highlight the wide range of threats facing consumers and to let them know his office is there to help, “Whether it’s unscrupulous telemarketers or home contractors … we have to do more to protect our seniors from harm,” he said.

In office only a few weeks, Mr. Shapiro has been busy on the consumer-protection front. On Feb. 2, the attorney general’s office posted a video with Mr. Shapiro and Glenn Parks, an elderly Lancaster County resident who was duped into sending more than $200,000 to a “Jamaican lottery” scam through Western Union. The video was posted days after Mr. Shapiro and his counterparts from other states announced a settlement with Western Union requiring the company to adopt new anti-fraud measures, including special training for employees. “If someone had stopped Glenn and said to him, hey, you know what, you might want to think twice before you send that money through, we might have been able to prevent this,” Mr. Shapiro said in the video.

The Taucher and Western Union cases began before Mr. Shapiro took office, but he’s vowed to turn up the heat during his tenure. In Washington on Thursday, Mr. Shapiro announced plans to enlist banks and Area Agencies on Aging in a crackdown on financial crimes targeting seniors and to establish new task forces targeting fraud and identify theft — all excellent ideas. There’s no shortage of traps to ensnare the consumer. It helps to have the attorney general on the case, along with all the allies he can muster.

Read the article here.