South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Police warn residents about targeted scams, crimes of deception


An April 20 city-wide public safety zone council meeting in the Teamsters Hall in Lawrenceville drew more than 150 residents, public safety personnel, and city/state officials.

 The event’s theme was “Keeping Our Neighborhood Treasures Safe.”

 In keeping with that theme, Sgt. Kevin Gasiorowski of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau spoke about “Targeted Scams and Other Crimes of Deception.”

 He said scams are often targeted at seniors because they are more likely to have money at home and not trust banks; are more trusting and polite with people so have difficulty saying no; and are not physically able to keep someone from entering their home.

 They tend not to report scams because they feel ashamed; others will think they have a diminished mental capacity and they will lose their freedom; they don’t know who to report the scam to; and they don’t know they were scanned.

 Scamsters tend to work in pairs.

 In a distraction scam, one scamster will pose as an electrical worker with fake I.D. to enter a home. While he goes upstairs with the homeowner pretending to be checking, say, outlets, the other scamster is robbing downstairs.

 Another scam is claiming to have once lived in a specific home years ago. While the homeowner shows him around the house as it is today, the other scamster is robbing it.

 In another popular scheme, a person receives a phone call from someone claiming to be their grandchild. The caller asks for money to be wired immediately so the caller can be released from jail.

 Another scam involves home repairs. A home repair contractor working in the neighborhood will tell a resident he has extra material, and will do work immediately at their house for a down payment.

 Sgt. Gasiorowski warned that the scamster will do a bare minimum of the work, and leave for another town.

 Other scams include the Nigerian and lottery/sweepstakes scams.

 In the Nigerian scam, victims are swindled into believing if they wire the scamsters a sum of money they will receive a significantly larger sum in return.

 With lottery scams, people are asked to pay processing fees before they can collect their lottery winnings – but they never receive anything.

 “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” Sgt. Gasiorowski said.

 Some prevention tips for scams include: never give any personal information over the phone to unknown or suspicious callers; don’t let anyone in the house unless they were called to come; and never withdraw money from the bank under the advice of any stranger for any reason, but call the police and report it immediately.

 Next, there was a brief overview of Citiparks’ Healthy Active Living program, which is committed to helping people age 60 and older live active and healthy lives.

 To that end, Citiparks Community Services operates 14 senior community centers that are open Monday through Friday.

The centers, which are focused on improving the physical, social, cultural and other interests of seniors, offer horseshoe pitching, shuffleboard, bocce, darts, and more. Lunches are served at noon.

 Healthy Active Living also offers classes in conjunction with Community College of Allegheny County.

In his remarks, state Rep. Dom Costa said his office receives calls on scams, such as one regarding rent rebates. Residents receive calls supposedly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) asking for their Social Security number in order to receive the rebate.

 Mr. Costa said rent rebates are from the state, so residents will never receive a call about them from a federal agency.

 He also advised residents to never throw away junk mail, which contains names, addresses, and potentially other information; instead, shred it. His office periodically holds “shredding events” in local communities, which the next scheduled for Morningside on May 21. Call his office (412-361-2040) for other places and dates.

In his comments, Officer Jimmy Williams of the Munhall Police Department, and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s coordinator for Project Lifesaver, discussed the free, life-saving program.

 Its mission is to provide timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, and other related conditions or disorders.

 Residents enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small personal transmitter around the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized tracking signal. If an enrolled client goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency, and a trained emergency team responds to the wanderer’s area.

There are three conditions for enrollment: a client must have a diagnosis from a physician that they could tend to wander away; there must be a caregiver; and the client cannot drive.

Project Lifesaver does not operate in nursing homes because they are too numerous, Officer Williams said.

 Funding is from drug forfeiture money from the District Attorney’s Office.

To enroll, or for questions, contact Angela Kelley in the District Attorney’s Office.

Next, representatives of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services encouraged participation in the “Envelope of Life” program in which residents list their medical histories and medications on a form which they then attach to their refrigerators with a magnet or tape for quick reference by EMS in an emergency.

A sticker on the front door alerts EMS personnel to the information on the refrigerator.

 In his presentation, Mark Pinchalk, EMS’ Patient Care Coordinator, said the EMS, in conjunction with UMPC, began a Citizen CPR Training program this year. The goal is train residents who can initiate care in medical emergencies prior to EMS arrival.

Currently, less than 40 percent of residential/public cardiac arrest patients receive bystander CPR. Without bystander CPR, survival to discharge rates decrease dramatically.

Free, 30-minute courses will be provided on CPR and AED use. To schedule a program for a community group or organization, contact Mr. Pinchalk at 412-622-6930, or email:


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019

Rendered 06/29/2020 22:26