HARRISBURG—The Pennsylvania State Police is advising residents of a recent influx of crimes being committed by Romanian transnational criminals. 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.”
The jewelry is later determined to be counterfeit once taken to a jewelry store or pawn shop.
Oftentimes, they will overwhelm an individual with close contact before stealing jewelry off their victims.
These individuals may approach customers in parking lots and inside casinos.
To obtain sympathy from the victim, they will often tell a story of being down on their luck and needing money to return home to Florida for a funeral. Other narratives include hungry children, a sick family member or running late for a business meeting.
They often travel with families in newer high-end or luxury out-of-state vehicles.
Because they are transient, they move quickly from city to city and state to state and will not stay in one area for too long.
According to police, Romanian transnational criminals commit a variety of crimes, including:
- Counterfeit jewelry scams
- Quick-change schemes at retail locations
- Cell phone thefts at fitness facilities
- Jewelry store distraction thefts
- Place skimming devices on ATMS and at self-checkout registers
The PSP reminds residents to remain vigilant of their surroundings and consider the following recommendations. If something does not seem right, report the suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency immediately.
- Use caution if approached by an individual attempting to sell gold jewelry. While the jewelry may be stamped with 18k, it is likely not real.
- Do not feel pressured into purchasing jewelry or any other item, even if the individual is telling a convincing story of being down on their luck and are desperate for money.
- If something seems too good to be true, it likely is.
- Ask the seller very specific questions about the product, origin and brand and tell them you want the jewelry appraised.
- Never leave with a stranger to go to an ATM to retrieve money to purchase jewelry or other items.
- If you witness an individual(s) attempting to flag down motorists while standing on the side of the highway, contact law enforcement immediately and do not approach them.
- Be aware of the potential of ATM skimmers at self-checkout registers and gas station pumps. Possible signs of tampering include buttons that are difficult to press or are not working correctly; graphics that are misaligned; components that look or feel different from the rest of the machine; machines that are side-by-side that look different.
- Monitor your banking accounts for any suspicious transactions.
If you have been a victim of a counterfeit jewelry scam, report the incident to law enforcement and provide detailed physical description of the individuals and the vehicles they were driving.
The free See Something, Send Something smartphone app enables individuals to report suspicious activity by capturing a photograph, screenshot and other information to send directly to the PSP. Tips may also be sent to [email protected].