Pennsylvania has launched a property tax rebate program, which it turns out, has become a lucrative opportunity for scammers, preying on the state's large elderly population.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett this week urged seniors in his state to be wary of mailings and other unsolicited offers that attempt to charge a fee for information about the rebate program.

Corbett says seniors that they are not required to pay a fee to apply for the state's property tax and rent rebates program. Rebate forms and instructions are available free-of-charge and can be easily obtained from the Department of Revenue, as well as Area Agency on Aging offices and the offices of many state legislators.

"Homeowners across the state are continuing to report unsolicited mailings to our office that ask seniors or disabled residents to pay a fee in order to receive assistance in filing a property tax or rent rebate claim," Corbett said. "Those letters do not disclose that seniors can apply for rebates directly with the Commonwealth, for free, or that forms and assistance are readily available."

Not the first time

Corbett noted that this is the second time this year that consumers have reported receiving questionable notifications about the state's property tax and rent rebate program.

"Our office first cautioned consumers in March 2010 about mailings that asked seniors to pay a fee in order to obtain information and applications for the PA Property Tax/Rent Rebate program," said Corbett. "This second wave of solicitations appears to be linked to a change in the deadline for this year's applications, which has been extended until December 31st."

Corbett said consumers should always be cautious with questionable offers that attempt to capitalize on programs intended to provide much-needed financial relief to older residents. He encouraged consumers to avoid unsolicited offers that ask for payment in return for assistance obtaining government funds and urged all consumers to check directly with official agencies to determine if applications or other information can be obtained free-of-charge.

Pennsylvania's 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 who meet certain income requirements.