The individual who’s just approached you asking for help in a casino parking lot may have a convincing tale of woe, but Pennsylvania State Police say it may be nothing more than a put-up job, particularly if the storyteller is from a small country in eastern Europe.
In a bulletin published Friday by the Bucks County District Attorney’s office, police said they are warning the public about so-called “Romanian transnational criminals” because of an influx of crime reports they’ve received recently.
“These criminals, usually described as appearing Middle Eastern or Hispanic, may pose as stranded motorists claiming to be in need of funds and willing to part with gold jewelry marked ’18k,'” police said.
They explained that the jewelry is later determined to be counterfeit, which is why anyone approached by someone offering to sell them gold jewelry should use caution in dealing with them. If the jewelry is stamped 18k “it is likely not real,” police stressed.
Other crimes in which the Romanian network has been implicated include quick-change schemes in retail outlets, cell phone thefts from retailers, gym locker thefts, jewelry store distraction thefts and identity theft via the use of skimming devices, which police said are have been placed on self-checkout and gas pump PIN pads and ATMs in public places.
The bulletin noted that there are sometimes warning signs that a device’s card reader has been compromised, such as buttons that are difficult to press or not working correctly; misaligned graphics; and components that look or feel different from the rest of a device.
Members of Romanian crime syndicates who approach potential victims will sometimes “overwhelm (them) with close contact” before stealing their jewelry, police said.
In other cases, to obtain sympathy they will “tell a story of being down on their luck and needing money to return home to Florida for a funeral,” the bulletin said.
Other narratives that have been used involve hungry children, a sick family member or running late for a business meeting, and the criminals are often with their families “in newer high-end or luxury out-of-state vehicles” when they’ve been spotted, police said.
“Because they are transient, they move quickly from city to city and state to state and will not stay in one area for long,” they added.
To help prevent Pennsylvania residents becoming victims of these criminals, state police urged that the following safety tips be followed:
- Never feel pressured to purchase jewelry or other items by someone claiming to be down on their luck.
- Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it likely is.
- Ask anyone who is trying to sell jewelry about its origin and brand, and demand an appraisal of the piece.
- Never allow a stranger to accompany you to an ATM if you are being encouraged to retrieve money.
- Contact law enforcement immediately and do not approach anyone attempting to flag down motorists while standing on the side of the highway.
- Monitor your bank accounts for suspicious activity.
State police also encouraged residents to use the free See Something, Say Something app to report suspicious activity to them directly, or to email tips to email@example.com.
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.