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Attempted scam saw woman visit intended victim in Belle Vernon

| Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Police are investigating a phone scam involving an elderly Belle Vernon woman that saw someone coming to her home posing as a cab driver to take her to a local store to withdraw cash.

Southwest Regional police Chief John Hartman said the unidentified victim – a 91-year-old from Main Street – notified police Thursday after she received a call stating she had won a large sum of money and that a cab would be sent for her to collect her winnings. She told police the caller said he was from New York.

Not long after, Hartman said, a female appeared at the woman's residence in a black and white car. The female driver told the woman she needed to pay taxes before collecting the prize money and offered to drive her to a nearby supermarket to perform a money transfer, Hartman said.

Hartman said this was the first instance in local phone scams where someone actually showed up in person to complete a transaction.

“Normally, they tell the victim, ‘We'll have somebody stop by your house,' but I haven't had anyone actually stop by the house, just them continuing to call, so this is a unique situation,” Hartman said. “That is creepy … it would lead you to believe there is a local connection. That would add a new wrinkle to this whole thing.”

After the visit, a son of the victim received a second phone call at his mother's residence before passing on the information to police.

Hartman said police attempted to call the numbers, attained through Caller ID, but did not get any response. Hartman said the calls appeared to come from outside the United States.

“The second time the call came in, it was under a different name,” Hartman said. “We don't know how they got her number or whether it was a random call. She was smart enough to refuse to go with the woman, then contact her son. They clearly have a racket set up to do this.”

Hartman is still seeking information to investigate if the caller is in cahoots with someone in the immediate area.

Anyone with information is urged to contact police at 724-929-8484 or via the department's Facebook page at Southwest Reg Pd.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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