Beware of Door-to-Door Con Games
Although anyone can be the target of a con game, the elderly are most often victimized, because they are less likely to identify the thieves and to report the crime. Studies show that the average con game victim is 78 years old.
Method of Operation
Door-to-door con artists travel in groups in pick-up trucks, vans, or on foot during daylight hours. Frequently, they observe their victims a day or more prior to the actual encounter. Once a victim is located, the con artists devise a plan and return, armed with information about the victim and the residence.
Con artists will strike when an opportunity arises. If they see a potential victim working in the front yard, they will enter the unlocked back door to commit a burglary. Con artists will also pose as repairmen or utility inspectors to enter the victim’s home unopposed.
Types of Con Games
- Utility Inspector
These offenders identify themselves as employees of Public Service Co., the water department, US West, the cable company or other utilities. They gain entry to the victim’s home by claiming they are working on a utility pole, gas line, or other problem in the neighborhood. Other con artists claim they need to check the appliances in the home because they suspect the victim may have been over-billed for service. Once inside, the victim is distracted by one offender while the others search for money, jewelry, and other valuables.
- Home Improvement/Repair Frauds
Itinerant workers known as “Travelers” offer “bargain” prices for home repairs. They typically claim to have done work in the past for the victim, or to have just finished a job and have left-over materials. After quoting a low price, Travelers intimidate their victims into paying much more after the work is completed. Common Traveler frauds include:
Work performed, if any, is shoddy and will not last. Travelers often prey on the same victims year after year. Recent police reports indicate Travelers may also steal money or other valuables from the victim’s home during the repair.
- Neighbor Assistance Con
Going door-to-door, this con artist convinces victims that a neighbor has an emergency and needs money. The needed funds may be for an emergency room fee, gasoline, towing, etc.
- The Family Con
A man, woman and one or two children appear at the victim’s door and plead to use the victim’s phone. They claim to have an emergency–car problems, a sick child, –and must call for help. Or they may simply ask for a drink of water. Once inside, one offender distracts the victim while another searches the house for valuables.
- Pigeon Drop
One perpetrator approaches two supposed strangers and claims to have just found a large sum of money. The victim believes that the offender does not know either of them, but the other supposed “stranger” is actually the offender’s accomplice. The con artist offers to share the windfall if convinced of the goodwill of the two supposed strangers. The victim is convinced to contribute “earnest” money, which is placed in an envelope or handkerchief. The con artist switches the envelope containing the money with one containing cut-up paper. Later, victim discovers that his or her money is gone.
- Bank Examiner
This scam involves a con artist who pretends to be a bank examiner. The offender calls the victim and explains that a bank employee is suspected of altering withdrawal slips, and solicits the victim’s help in trapping this “guilty employee.” The con artist convinces the victim to make a large withdrawal from his or her bank account in order to trap the bank employee. Instead, the offender simply takes the victim’s money and disappears.
Protect Yourself From Con Games
- Don’t respond to strangers at your door or on the street.
- Be observant and alert for strange pickup trucks, vans, and cars cruising your neighborhood or parked in your street or alley.
- Take note of work being done on neighbors’ homes. Watch for strangers walking down the street with buckets and ladders or going door-to-door.
- Write down the license plate numbers of suspicious vehicles. Also note the make, model, and color of the vehicles and the occupants.
- If you observe suspicious vehicles or persons in your neighborhood and think there is a crime in progress, call 911 with a complete description of the incident. If the suspicious vehicles or persons are no longer on the scene but you want to alert the police, call the police non-emergency number and the DA’s Fraud Hotline.
- If your parents or neighbors are elderly and live alone, tell them not to let anyone into their home for repairs without first contacting you or the police.