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Cab driver from West Mifflin thwarts scam attempt

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
David Capizzi, a cab driver with Yellow Cab, stopped a client from being scammed out of hundreds of dollars. On Nov. 8th. Capizzi picked up an elderly Castle Shannon man who told him he was going to the bank to get $500. He said he had received a phone call claiming he had won a Publisher’s Clearing House contest and would get $5 million once he sent in his check. Capizzi was able to talk him out of it.

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Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

A cab driver put the brakes on a scam that would have cost an elderly Castle Shannon man hundreds of dollars, police say.

David Capizzi, 61, of West Mifflin knew something was wrong Nov. 8 when his 82-year-old client told him that he just received a call saying he had won a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.

All the man had to do to claim his $5 million prize was go to the bank, withdraw $500 and call back for further instructions. They even offered to call a cab for him.

“They told him he couldn't tell anybody,” said Capizzi, a Yellow Cab driver of nearly a year. “That was the icing on the cake.”

This was no ordinary fare from the beginning, Capizzi said. When he first arrived at the home, there was no answer at the door, so he phoned the number his dispatcher provided as a contact. There was no answer.

Just before Capizzi was going to leave, the man came out of his home and relayed his story. Capizzi persuaded the man, who declined to comment or be identified, to go back into his home. Capizzi escorted him inside, where the man called his daughter.

Capizzi then received a call on his phone from a blocked number. It was a woman claiming to be the man's granddaughter.

“She wanted to know if we were at the bank yet,” Capizzi said.

He told her no, and she demanded to speak to the man. That cemented Capizzi's suspicion. He hung up.

“That's when I called this thing off,” Capizzi said.

The would-be victim then called police.

Such scams are common in Western Pennsylvania, where con artists know there's a concentration of older adults, said Castle Shannon police Chief Ken Truver.

His department fields three or four similar calls a month, ranging from sweepstakes scams to people pretending to be debt collectors. “Seniors can be easily confused,” he said. “They believe there is good in people.”

Truver said con artists often use disposable phones and live out of the country, making it impossible for local departments to apprehend them.

Capizzi said he was happy to help, especially because his mother has been a target of a scam.

“I would be thrilled to put some of these guys away,” Capizzi said.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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