Bogus surveyor scams elderly woman

July 25, 2014
In this file photo, Terry Barton of Washington drives a van equipped with a camera and computers used to gather information for the Washington County reassessment program being conducted by Tyler Technologies. Someone posing as a reassessment worker scammed an elderly woman in Hickory. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A man posing as a Washington County reassessment surveyor lured an elderly woman from her Hickory home while an accomplice went inside and stole about $650 in cash, coins and jewelry.

Mt. Pleasant Township police Chief Lou McQuillan said the incident happened between 3 and 4 p.m. Thursday. The person who came to the door was a white man in his 30s or 40s, whom the victim described as being polite and well-spoken, according to McQuillan.

McQuillan declined to name the victim, a woman in her 80s, explaining she was embarrassed by the incident. She told police a man carrying a tape measure and walkie-talkie knocked on her door and identified himself as a reassessment worker. He then asked her to step outside and show him the property line in her yard.

“He was very friendly with her, told her it was his day off and he was doing a favor for his boss,” McQuillan said.

While speaking with the woman, the man also was communicating on his walkie-talkie with his “boss,” whom McQuillan said was likely an accomplice who entered the house.

When the woman turned to re-enter her house, the man jumped into a white pickup truck parked in front of the house. The truck took off at a high speed and nearly caused an accident, according to McQuillan’s report from the victim.

While this is not the first scam of its kind in Washington County, McQuillan said it’s the first Mt. Pleasant Township has seen in a while. Last year, in a nearly identical scam, a Canton Township couple was robbed of their wedding rings while preparing to celebrate their 68th anniversary.

“That’s what these people do. This is their job,” McQuillan said of the scammers. “They’re very good at it.”

McQuillan said there is currently no reassessment work being conducted in Mt. Pleasant. He said reassessment vans will be clearly marked, and workers should have a surveyor vest and a Tyler Technologies identification card. Residents will not be asked by authorized surveyors to point out property lines.

“If people aren’t sure, they can always call (police),” McQuillan said.

In a separate incident, a woman in Hickory said she recently received mail fraud for an “official declaration of certified award and provision of payment.” The sender requested $12.99 in exchange for $140,000 cash or a 30-year annuity of $2 million. The sender asked that payments be made out to a judge’s distribution center.

Tammy Mayle of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Pittsburgh said people should “be wary if things sound too good to be true, or the whole thing doesn’t make sense as to what you’re getting.”

Sometimes, letter recipients may also receive counterfeit checks and are asked to wire money. Mayle said this particular instance sounds similar to a foreign lottery scam, where letter recipients are asked to pay a small fee to claim their prize.

If a letter recipient follows through with the payment, the scammer typically requests additional payments for customs charges or attorney fees, Mayle said.

“There’s always some kind of excuse why the funds can’t be released,” she said.

Other things to look out for include Canadian postage and references to other countries in the letter. To report mail fraud, visit or call 877-876-2455.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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