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Phone scam targets North Belle Vernon 7-Eleven

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

A North Belle Vernon business lost more than $1,000 following a sophisticated phone scam.

North Belle Vernon police are investigating the scam, which was phoned into the 7-Eleven convenience store on Fayette Avenue last week.

Clerk Erin Cooper told police that at approximately 11:30 p.m. Aug. 28, she received a phone call from a man claiming to be from the corporate office, giving her the store's identification number.

He spoke with an accent, but spoke “good English,” Cooper told police.

The caller told Cooper that required sales tax was not being added to purchases made with credit and debit cards.

Police said the man instructed Cooper to ring up and cash out a cigarette lighter. The manthen provided her with the receipt's transaction number, further proving to the clerk the call was legitamit.

Cooper told police she loaded a pre-paid debit card with $499.99, and gave the caller the Personal Identification Number at his instruction.

The man then told her there was an error, and code and asked her to load another $499.99 pre-paid card. She again gave him the PIN number, police said.

Cooper became suspicious after the caller said there was another error and he needed her to activate two more pre-paid cards.

The clerk said she needed to call her manager before activating two more cards.

That's when the man immediately hung up, Cooper told police.

She told police she received a phone call from In-Comm, the company that manages the pre-paid debit cards, to verify the two debit card transactions because the balances on both of the cards activated by Cooper were immediately transferred to another card.

“That was when she realized the guy wasn't who he said he was,” police Chief Jim Bedsworth said.

In-Comm advised Cooper that she provided the man the PIN numbers, which allowed the balances to be transferred. She was then advised to contact police.

“Whether it was a matter of their computers being hacked or someone going in and getting a transaction number just before the ones he gave the clerk, who knows,” Bedsworth said, adding that he thinks the scam originated beyond U.S. borders. “Something happened, though, for him to have that information. We're looking into it.”

The store's loss in the incident totaled $1,007.88, which included the amounts loaded on to the cards and their $3.95 retail price, police said.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jsellew@tribweb.com or 724-684-2667.

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