Pittsburgh police investigating after multiple people fall victim to theft scheme

PITTSBURGH — Multiple Channel 11 viewers say they lost hundreds of dollars after falling victim to an apparent credit and debit card theft skimming scam in the South Hills.

They say the scam appears to have started at various Brookline Boulevard convenient stores and gas stations, where they either used ATM machines or paid for food and gas with the cards this past weekend.

They then discovered charges from various businesses and ATMs in East Liberty and other city neighborhoods that they never went to.

Pittsburgh police are actively investigating and confirm at least two cases of fraud in the Brookline community.

However, there could be more, as some residents have not yet contacted police to file reports and have only spoken with their banks. “It’s infuriating. You know, everybody works for their money. It’s a recession. It’s awful,” said Tara Henry of Brookline.

Tara Henry is one of the Brookline area residents who are reporting on social media that their credit or debit card information was stolen after going to gas stations and convenient stores along Brookline Boulevard. She came to the 7-Eleven Friday evening for a snack.

On Monday, she discovered that someone withdrew hundreds of dollars from her account at an ATM inside an East Liberty business she never shopped at.

“Most expensive soda and chips ever. Two hundred plus bucks!”

Henry took to her neighborhood Facebook group and quickly discovered this charge was apparently part of a much larger card copying scheme.

“I started talking to other people, and I filed a police report. Well, the officer called me back within 15 minutes and he said, ‘Did you go to the 7-Eleven on Brookline Bouelvard?’ I said, ‘Yes, actually. I did on Friday.’ And he said, ‘I’m getting multiple calls this morning.’”

Samantha Gallos said something similar happened to her and her brother after they each tried using their cards at the same location.

She moved on to the Sunoco up the road, only to discover a suspicious charge on her account days later.

“Said a Target out in East Liberty charged me, but I’ve never been there,” said Gallos.

Gallos says she was charged more than $200, and her brother lost $2,000.

Pittsburgh police tell Channel 11 they are aware of the fraudulent charges and are encouraging victims to come forward and contact them directly.

In the meantime, Henry says she feels for those who are living paycheck to paycheck and have been hit by scammers.

“Thankfully it wasn’t a larger sum of money, but I just think of single moms, people out here who are struggling day to day. What if that was their $200, maybe they was to feed their kids?”

Channel 11 reached out to Citizens Bank and PNC Bank, which some of the victims use for service.

A spokesperson for Citizens Bank said, “The safety and security of our customers’ accounts is of utmost importance to us. We monitor for unusual activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are aware of recent incidents where fraudulent activity has been found in the area and are working closely with local authorities on the investigation. We encourage customers to closely monitor their accounts and to report any suspicious activity to us via our contact center at 1-800-922-9999 in order to file a claim so we can begin our investigation. We will examine all claims of fraud and reimburse customers where appropriate. We also recommend that customers visit the extensive information we have available about security and fraud protection, including using chip and contactless payment methods, online at https://www.citizensbank.com/security/default.aspx.

A spokesperson at PNC Bank said, “PNC is aware of the issue and working to secure and reissue cards for impacted customers. In the meantime, customers who believe they have been the victim of fraud should call PNC as soon as possible to file a dispute on the charges.

To help avoid credit and debit card fraud at the point of sale, customers should look for visible damage, loose equipment or other possible warning signs before they swipe or use their chip cards. If customers are concerned an ATM or card reader may have been compromised, they should immediately notify their bank and monitor their accounts for unauthorized activity.”