Police warn residents,
especially seniors, not to open door to
Trouble knocking at your
By Ken Kosky | Posted: Friday, November 13,
2009 12:05 am
Region seniors are being warned -- don't
answer a knock at your door unless you know
the person on the other side.
Local police officials say we've reached
the point where people, especially the
elderly, shouldn't open their door unless
it's a friend, family member or expected
delivery or repair person.
Northwest Indiana's elderly residents have
lost thousands of dollars to the scam teams
that use one man to distract homeowners
while the second man steals money from their
home. These criminals pose as utility
workers, tree trimmers and even long-lost
acquaintances to gain the confidence of
In October, Milton McClendon, 78, and Ruby
McClendon, 76, opened the door of their
Hammond home to two teens who pretended they
had car trouble and needed to use the phone,
according to reports. Police said the teens
robbed and killed the elderly couple.
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said a
gag order prevents him from discussing the
McClendons' deaths, but he said the time has
come to stop answering the door for
strangers and trusting what strangers say.
"I believe we live in a different day and
age," Miller said.
Miller said people who hear their doorbell
ringing and see a stranger should strongly
consider calling their local police
department immediately to have the person
"One of two things will happen (if police
are called)," Porter County Sheriff David
Lain said. "They (the person at the door)
run like hell, which tells you everything
you need to know, or they'll wait patiently
and confirm their identity when the police
Miller said it's better to have an officer
spend a few minutes of time and delay
someone at the door than possibly become the
victim of a crime.
Miller said criminals have followed elderly
people from banks and stores to their homes.
But a lot of times, criminals drive around
and spot homes that appear to belong to the
elderly, Lain said. Some telltale signs:
wheelchair ramps, large cars (especially
with handicapped plates or placards), older
people sitting on the porch or signs that
say things like "grandchild crossing."
But Lain said even if a criminal targets
an elderly person, the elderly person can
fight back by not answering the door and by
According to Miller, scam artists target
the elderly because they're more trusting.
Lain said con artists succeed because they
are often friendly and pretend to be
familiar with them or a neighbor. He said
some might even have fake identification
badges. So, if a person shows up claiming to
represent a utility or company, people
should call police or call the utility using
a telephone number in the phone book, not a
number provided by the person at the door.
People also need to be wary of people
coming door to door offering to do driveway
sealing, roof repairs and more. They often
use substandard materials or leave once they
get payment, so it's much better to deal
with an established local business, Lain
Lain often tells of a rural Valparaiso
woman in her late 70s who was lured out of
her home by a man posing as a worker. While
the woman was outside, the fake worker's
partner went inside the home but was
surprised to find the woman's parents --
both about 100 years old -- inside the home.
The home intruder was quickly harassed and
chased off by the sharp centenarians.
Crime prevention tips for seniors
-- Always keep doors and windows locked.
Install deadbolt locks on all your doors.
-- Keep your home well lit at night,
inside and out, and keep your curtains
closed at night.
-- Install a peephole in your front door
so you can see callers without opening the
-- Ask for proper identification from
deliverymen or strangers. Don't be afraid of
asking if they are legitimate.
-- If a stranger asks to use your
telephone, offer to place the call for
him/her yourself. Never let a stranger into
-- Do not leave notes on your door when
you are gone, and do not hide your keys
under the mat or in other conspicuous
-- Never give out information over the
phone indicating you are alone or that you
won't be home at a certain time.
-- When you are gone for more than a day,
make sure your home looks and sounds
occupied. Use an automatic timer to turn on
lights and a radio or TV.
-- Have your paychecks or government
checks sent directly to your bank account.
-- Never withdraw money from your bank
accounts for anyone except yourself. Be wary
of con artists and get-rich schemes that
probably are too good to be true.
-- If you arrive at home and suspect a
stranger may be inside, don't go in. Leave
quietly and call 911 to report the crime.
-- If you have been swindled or conned,
report the crime to your local police. Con
artists count on their victim's reluctance
to admit they’ve been duped, but if you
delay, you help them get away.
Source: Porter County Sheriff's Department