Police warn of common scam artists

Police warn residents, especially senior citizens, to be aware of scam artists.
July 08, 2014

DEARBORN — Police want to remind residents to be aware of scam artists, who often prey on senior citizens who often are trusting, living alone, or have large sums of money available to them.

These types of scams can include home invasions, burglaries, robberies, thefts, confidence games, door-to-door solicitors, home companion scams and home-repair frauds.

Many scams are committed by well-organized, transient criminals who evade identification and arrest by operating in various cities and towns under many aliases. They often leave town before a crime has been discovered or reported.

A typical scam

One or two subjects make contact with a homeowner by ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door. They attempt to distract the homeowner and direct them toward the kitchen with deceptions such as:
Faking an illness.

  • Posing as a utility worker.
  • Offering to complete home repairs.
  • Pretending to have a package to deliver.
  • Asking for paper or pen to leave a note for a neighbor.
  • Asking if the house is for sale.
  • Looking for a lost dog or cat.

Once the homeowner is distracted, several unseen accomplices will enter the residence and explore it in search of jewelry or money. There usually very little sign of ransacking as the actors go through the homeowner’s items very carefully, taking only certain valuables and putting everything else back in its place. After the thieves leave, the homeowner may not even realize that anything has been taken.

Another common scam occurs when a homeowner is approached by one person or more who offer to conduct home repairs such as a new roof, concrete repairs, etc. at a very low cost. The con-artist will then convince the homeowner to pay for all or part of the repair up front in cash. Once the homeowner hands over the money, the scam artist leaves the area and never returns to complete the home repairs.

Quick tips checklist

  • Use caution when dealing with strangers — even those who wear authentic-looking uniforms and might have a reason for entering the house.
  • Be suspicious of strangers offering to share found money or lottery winnings with you.
  • Request and verify identification before letting somebody in your house.
  • Check a company’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau before conducting business with them.
  • Request a written estimate for repair work. Also, get estimates from other companies before making any type of commitment.
  • Do not invest hastily. Do not rush into a bargain. If it appears too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Ask that you wish to discuss a contract with a lawyer before signing any documents
  • When in doubt, call police.
  • If the suspects leave before police arrive, try to obtain a description of the person or vehicle involved. A license plate number helps the investigation a great deal.
  • Scam artists are persuasive and persistent. They are very well trained in what they do and have managed to take away some people’s entire life savings. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to remain cautious and become educated on how these types of groups operate.