A topic I frequently address in the scope of my job as a police officer, is the vulnerability of the elderly. While you might not think the subject applies to you now, it will someday. Let’s face it – like it or not, we all get old.
Here is a scam frequently used to take advantage of our senior citizens.
DISTRACTION BURGLARIES: Usually this scam involves two or more people. One person will go to the door of a senior citizen and use a ruse to have the elderly person let them into their home. Often this scam will have the crook dressing in some type of uniform or carrying a clipboard and requesting to go to the rear yard to conduct some kind of test, or take some measurements. They may even have a tape measure with them or wear a hardhat to look more official.
When the senior lets the ‘workman’ (or woman) into their home, the crook unlocks the front door and then leads the elderly person (the victim) to the rear yard while an accomplice quickly goes through the house taking small items such as money, jewelry, cash, checks and credit cards.
This is one form of a distraction burglary. Another version is where a mother and child, or in some cases just a child, comes to the door wanting the victim to let them in the rear yard to look for a ball or kitten. Our senior citizens can’t imagine that a mother and child would be up to no good and let them into the house. Again, one party distracts the senior, while another goes through the house and takes items of value. As soon as the thief is done in the house, both parties leave and the poor senior might not realize for a day or two they’ve been burglarized.
There are other variations of a distraction burglary, but these are the two most common. Remember: If someone comes to your door and you’re not expecting them, be on your guard. If they want in your house, red flags should go off in your head. Don’t take what anyone tells you at face value. If they say they are from the water company or the phone company or any place of business, ask questions. Get a phone number where you can call and verify these people are conducting legitimate business.
In the case of someone wanting to take measurements, have them meet you at a side gate and let them in that way. If they need to find a ball or cat in the back yard, offer to go find the ball or cat yourself. Be sure, before you leave your home, all your doors are locked.
The elderly are susceptible to thieves for several reasons – mostly because often they aren’t good witnesses. Often they don’t remember hair color, or height. They can’t remember if the suspect had a car or if he/she had tattoos.
Another reason they’re targeted is because they may not realize for a very long time they’ve been victimized…or if they do, they are ashamed to tell anyone.
If you have a senior in your life or in your neighborhood, it’s the right thing to do to be extra vigilant in watching out for their wellbeing. If you see someone hanging around an elder’s house and it seems unusual, go over in a friendly way and see what’s going on. It might be Uncle Elmo visiting from Kansas, or it might be something more sinister – something you can easily determine by asking a few questions.
Unfortunately, we all get old, and even more unfortunately, there are criminals who will be seeking us out to victimize.
Until next time,