Top 5 scams in Pittsburgh

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PITTSBURGH —

They're clever. They're convincing. And they're after your money! Target 11 Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor uncovers the Top 5 Scams in Pittsburgh.

A scam is all about the story. It has to be convincing, and some of these con-artists are really good.

They know how to lure you in. Then, before you even know what hit you, your money is gone and so are they.

Phony Sweepstakes or Lottery

Tom Walman showed me a letter that says he's a winner of $45,000 in the Reader's Digest sweepstakes. All he has to do to get his winnings is cash a check for $3,160 and then wire $2,000 back to them to cover the insurance.

"This lady was so convincing. I mean she really sold a package. She was good, real good," said Tom Walman, 83, of Crafton Heights.

Here's the problem. The check is counterfeit, and the people who sent it are con-artists. If Tom wires them money, they'll pick it up and he'll never hear from them again.

"Right away, it came to mind, this is a scam," said Walman, who didn't fall for it.

Phony sweepstakes or lotteries are the No. 1 scam in Pittsburgh.

Mystery Shopper

Coming in at No. 2 is twist on this same theme, only this time you've been chosen as a mystery shopper. Again, you're sent a check for $2,000 to $3,000, and then told to spend some of it and wire the rest back.

By the time the bank figures out the check is a fake, you're out of luck and a couple grand.

Phishing

Watch out for misleading emails with statements like this, "The credit card we have on file for your Comcast Internet service was declined."

This is called phishing and it is No. 3 on our list.

Kaitlin George is a Comcast customer, but there's isn't a problem with her account. It's a trick to get her credit card number.

"If that was my mom or my dad, would they have clicked on there? You just don't know," said George, or New Kensington, who contacted us after receiving multiple phishing emails.

Computer Virus Scam

At No. 4 is the computer virus scam, which has been plaguing homes in the northern suburbs hard this fall.

"It was serious. My computer was in danger, all my computers," said Patty Tincha, of Renfrew, Pa.

The caller claims to be from Microsoft or Dell or Verizon and needs to fix a virus on your computer. What they're really after are passwords and account numbers so they can steal your money and your identity.

Grandparent's Scam

Finally, at No. 5 is the grandparent's scam, which begins with a phone call from someone claiming to be in trouble.

"This young man, I thought was my grandson. He sounded just like him," said Bonnie Roizik, of Webster, Pa.

The caller said he was her 20-year-old grandson Mitchell. He had been in a car accident in Peru and desperately needed money to get out of jail.

Instead of wiring cash, Bonnie told me that she called her daughter and found out her grandson was safe at school.

"It wasn't fun. Let me put it to you that way," said Rozik.

Here's some simple advice. Never wire money to a stranger.

If you get a check or money order in the mail from someone you don't know, no matter how real it looks, don't cash it!

Bogus checks are a huge problem in Pittsburgh. The postal inspector gets about 30 of them a day, so don't fall for whatever scam the  con artists are pulling to get your hard-earned cash.