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DA: Armstrong County rife with senior citizen scams

| Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Senior citizens need to be on the alert.

According to Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi, con artists have been targeting elderly victims in the county.

“Every year, we see a problem,” said Andreassi. “But they (scammers) are increasing in number and in the way they're attacking.”

One of the most common methods being used by criminals is done off-shore by telephone.

“They tell you you've won something and ask you to buy a cash card at a place like Wal-Mart,” said Andreassi.

He said victims are told to call and give the card number to the person on the other end of the phone.

“By the time people realize they've been ripped off — days, weeks and even months may have gone by,” said Andreassi.

And by then, it's often too late to trace, since many of these types of scams originate in countries such as India, Russia and China. Often the operation is only up for a few days before moving on.

“Once they identify you as a target, you become a rich target for other scammers,” said Andreassi.

He said he believes that's what happened in the case of an elderly couple in Armstrong County who were scammed out of $80,000 over a period of a year.

“It's so disheartening to have to tell people who have worked their whole lives to make this money, that there is nothing you can do,” said Andreassi.

An Allegheny County cab driver was recently in the news for thwarting a scam attempt against an 82-year-old man who was taking the cab to purchase a cash card.

“It was very fortunate for that man that the cab driver was so astute,” said Andreassi.

Another common scam claims that a family member is being held in jail in another state and needs money to post bail.

A lot of these scammers take advantage of victims by playing on people's sympathy, he said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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