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Belle Vernon woman foils phone scam

Chris Buckley | The Valley Independent
Dorothy Moss talks outside the Belle Vernon Apartments Monday, July 22, 2013. Moss thwarted a would-be telephone scammer claiming that she could collect $100,000 from the Publisher;'s Clearinghouse - if she sent in $250.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Dorothy Moss has been buying products from Publishers Clearing House for years.

Still, she was suspicious when she started getting telephone calls last week from a man telling her she had just won $100,000 from the organization — especially when the caller told the 90-year-old Belle Vernon woman she would have to send in a $250 check to claim her prize.

“I didn't understand why I had to pay to collect,” Moss said.

So Moss called Southwest Regional Police, who advised her it was a scam and not to do anything. Moss was instructed to tell the caller that police would like to talk to him.

Moss said while the caller was persistent, she was too.

“I told him, ‘I'm not giving you $250,'” Moss said. “He finally said, ‘I'll get back to you.'”

Southwest Regional Police traced the call to a residence in Compton, Calif. The department notified the Los Angeles Police Department, which is investigating the case as well.

Southwest police Chief John Hartman sent LAPD a photo of the location where Moss was instructed to mail the $250 check.

“The caller had the nerve to call her back and say, ‘We called the police and they said it's OK to send a check,'” Hartman said. “I told her absolutely not.

“Legitimate sweepstakes do not ask you to pay money to collect. Clearly, this was a scam.”

Hartman said he has not heard of the scam occurring with any other local residents, but said he may hear from other potential victims now that the scam has been made public.

Hartman said his department remains in contact with LAPD.

“If we can identify the person who called, we will file charges,” Hartman said. “If we get enough evidence, we will file charges.”

Moss said she hopes going public with the would-be scam will prevent others from falling prey to the crime.

“They're preying on elderly people who don't have much money,” Moss said.

Publishers Clearing House is a firm based in Port Washington, N.Y., that sells merchandise and magazine subscriptions. The company uses online and direct-mail sweepstakes, contests and prize promotions to market its products.

Hartman said Publishers Clearing House is a legitimate company.

Moss agrees. On Monday, she sent in a new order to Publishers Clearing House.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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