Every year, senior citizens lose thousands of dollars to traveling con-artists and are cautioned to be alert for the following types of scams:
Home Repair Fraud
Senior citizens are approached by individuals offering to perform various home repair jobs such as driveway repair, roof or gutter repair and asphalt repair. The perpetrators claim to have materials left over from other jobs, offer significant discounts, or that they were sent by a close relative or friend.
Once the job is completed, the cost of the work is suddenly more than the first quote and payment in cash is demanded. The con artists may even offer to provide a ride to the bank so the victim can convert his/her check to cash.
Citizens are advised to always get references from home repair workers. The elderly are advised to be especially leery of workers from outside the local area. If you believe that you are being ripped off, contact your local police and your personal lawyer prior to payment.
Finally, the potential employers are advised to contact the Indiana Attorney General's Office, the Better Business Bureau and the County Clerk's Office to check if any complaints have been registered against the company offering this service prior to entering into any agreements.
Utility Employee Impersonators
In this scam, the perpetrators attempt to gain entrance to the victim's home by posing as employees of a utility company. Once inside, the con artists inform the victim of an overcharge by the utility company and insist on providing the victim a refund asking for change for a $100 bill. When the victim makes change for the large bill the perpetrators learn the location of the victim's money, and while one individual diverts the attention of the victim, another steals cash or valuables. Often, the victim may be diverted to the basement to assist one of the impersonators to inspect for an alleged water or gas leak so that the house can be ransacked for cash and valuables.
First of all, citizens should never allow anyone that they do not know into their home. If a utility employee or service worker comes to your home without your personal request, ask the worker to show identification at a window near the door. If you are still unsure of the subjects purpose, contact the utility company that the employee claims to be from to verify the employment of the subject. If the person is truly from a utility company they won't mind your caution.
Home Diversion Burglary
This scam usually occurs during the spring, summer or fall when residents are working outside. Most individuals working in their yard do not lock the doors to their homes. One individual will approach the victim and occupy his/her attention while a second subject enters the victim's home and steals cash, jewelry and silver.
Another home diversion technique is for perpetrators to come to a residence and ask for a drink of water, use a bathroom, or use a telephone for an emergency to gain entrance to a home. The subjects will then attempt to divert the victim's attention while an accomplice searches for valuables.
Tips: If an unknown subject comes to your home seeking directions, the phone, the bathroom, etc., keep the subjects outside the home and at least one locked door between you and them. If they need water direct them to an outside faucet, if they need to contact someone, offer to make the call for them. When working in the yard only, leave a door unlocked that you can visibly monitor at all times.
The Pigeon Drop
In the most common variation of this scheme, a person is approached by strangers who claim to have found a large bag containing cash. The victim is convinced to put up "good faith" money to share in the find and is driven to his/her bank to obtain the money. The good faith money is then put in a purse or parcel for safekeeping. The victim is then distracted while the parcel containing his/her money is switched. The bogus parcel is later given to the victim for safe keeping and the strangers leave to make final arrangements and never return.
Obviously, if a deal sounds to good to be true, it is. Anyone that asks for a person to put up money for "good faith" is not trustable. In this instance you have to ask, why would anyone wish to share their money? If you wish to verify the loss of a large bag containing cash, contact your local police to check out this story and to advise them of the con-artists you have encountered.
Bank Examiner Scam
The con-artist portrays himself as a Good Samaritan in this scheme and generally poses as a bank official, police officer, or FBI agent flashing a badge or other identification. The perpetrator requests the assistance of the victim in checking on an employee suspected of defrauding the victim's bank or indicates there is reason to believe the victim's records are inaccurate and should be checked. Once the swindler has the victim's confidence, he persuades the victim to withdraw large sums of cash from his bank account. The victim is then assured his money will be returned and the swindler will ultimately take the money, never to be seen again.
All of the professionals listed above have other ways to resolve investigations rather than involving innocent subjects. Each of these groups have their own officers and money for covert operations to check for bank fraud. If you are approached by any of these individuals, contact their claimed employer to verify their employment. If the person claims to be a detective or FBI agent, ask the person for a uniformed officer to come to your location to verify their identity.
The perpetrator in this scheme claims to be from Africa or another country and has just inherited a large sum of money. He then displays a letter that states that, under the law in their country, he cannot return with more than a small amount of U.S. currency. The swindler then solicits the victim's assistance and either asks the victim to keep the money and periodically send small amounts of it back to them in their home country or make a small donation. In either case, the victim is given the impression that this person will return to their country leaving his money behind.
The con-artist tells his victim that he trusts him; however, it will be necessary for him to prove he has money of his own so he won't be tempted to keep this money. When the victim withdraws a large sum of money from his bank, the money is placed into a handkerchief or envelope along with the con-artist's money and a switch is made. The victim is later given an identical envelope or handkerchief containing cut up paper and the con-artist departs never to be seen again.
Banks were established over hundreds of years ago just for this specific purpose. Remember, this person approached you because of your reputation for honesty. If you have to prove your financial responsibility, then this person is not being honest about their intention.
In All Cases
If you are approached or believe you have been or may be victimized by a traveling con-artist, call Porter County Sheriff's Office immediately at 812-477-3000. For further information about scams, contact our Public Information Office.