Scam alert: Sheriff says don’t be naive

Scams, fraud, child abuse, and domestic violence were all topics that Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla touched on as the guest speaker of the GFWC/OFWC Woman’s Club of Steubenville meeting held March 10 at the Steubenville Country Club.

Abdalla was introduced by Donna Keagler, program chairman.

“We are very privileged to have with us someone who has been in office for 29 years and counting,” Keagler said. “By now he knows a little bit about his job, and he’s going to tell us about that today – fraud, abuse and domestic violence,” said Keagler, who brought with her a small collection of fraudulent checks she’s received through the mail and e-mail.

Although some of it is very legitimate looking, it’s anything but that, Keagler said.

Before Abdalla began his talk, club President Kathy Mills was quick to intervene, acknowledging Abdalla as the man who “started victims rights in Jefferson County. He and I both believed in it, and he took the ball and ran with it, and that’s why we have a victims rights program in Jefferson County to this day.”

Abdalla in turn applauded Mills who organized with a group of other women volunteers to become the task force for victims rights.

The sheriff said that despite warning people about scam artists with sweetheart deals, people find themselves victims because they’re nave.

When the calls come with offers of something too good to be true, “hang up,” advised Abdalla.

The sheriff cited different types of scams his office has dealt with, including asphalt scams to pave driveways; “grandchildren” contacting grandparents for bond money for an “arrest” they don’t want their parents to know about; and letters advising people they’ve won millions and need only send $2,500 to process the paperwork.

“They are ruthless. They don’t care,” Abdalla said of scam artists.

Another one in recent years involved calls advising people they’re received new Social Security cards but need to confirm the Social Security number before they’re sent.

“I get upset with people being so nave, but I more upset with individuals ripping off senior citizens, who they generally target.

As for the drug problem in Jefferson County, “we’re working on it,” Abdalla said, noting some people are under the assumption that reporting drug activity means instant action can be taken. Instead, it is a process that involves, among other things, surveillance and collecting information.

“We’re doing our best, but in a small community, they (drug dealers) know who law enforcement people are,” Abdalla said.

“There’s no way we’re going to win the war on drugs,” he said. Twenty years ago when he would go into classrooms to talk to students about not doing drugs, Abdalla said he would ask if they knew of anyone who used them. Few if any hands were raised.

Now when he asks, for instance, second- and third-graders the same question, the pupils do know someone – often their parents, grandparents, “mommy’s boyfriend,” etc.

Cases of child abuse, child sexual abuse cases and children murdered are “heartbreaking,” a part of the job that although common dealt with it

The cases that have brought arrests and convictions have involved people the children knew and loved, according to the sheriff, who pointed out the irony that children have been taught to beware of strangers.

The club’s luncheon and business meeting was attended by several guests with Iris Craig introducing her daughter Lorena Mercer and Bonnie Snyder. Mills’ guest was Michelle Miller.

Mills gave the treasurer’s report on behalf of Karen Majoris-Garrison, and Eleanor Weiss reviewed the minutes of the past meeting.

Marge Bedortha, corresponding secretary, read a thank-you note from Mary Ann Sunyoger, who thanked the club for its hospitality when she was a recent guest speaker.

In old business, Weiss gave a report of the nominating committee with officers proposed for 2014-16 to be: Iris Craig, president; Donna Keagler, vice president; Judy Brancazio, recording secretary; Marge Bedortha, corresponding secretary; Kathy Mills, treasurer; Mills and Dolores Dooley, directors at large; and Craig and Mills, delegates to convention.

Dooley moved that nominating slated become the elective slate, which was unanimously approved by the vote of club membership.

Mills then reviewed what a busy year the club had had, participating in 18 projects that included donations of money to the tune of $5,000 to the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center; $300 to the Red Cross; $300, Shot at Life immunization program, $2,500, Neighborhood House daycare center; $800, memorial bench in memory of club treasurer Shirley Mitchell for her work at the Gold Star Mother Shrine; $310.37 in pennies for Hounds’ Haven; $500, Salvation Army of Jefferson County; hats, gloves, socks, mittens and canned food for Urban Mission; and the collection of 52 pairs of used eyeglasses.

The club’s April 7 meeting at noon at the Steubenville Country Club will be preceded by a 10:45 board meeting led by Mills.

The guest speakers will be Janice Watzman and Ilene Jones with updates on “Obamacare.”

Peggy D’Albenzio and Terri English will be hostesses and greeters.