Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Scammers Preying on the Elderly

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Just sharing a few words of wisdom from CPD Officer Ray Tracy, who spoke at Monday’s meeting of the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch.

Officer Tracy notes that con artists are making their seasonal rounds across the area. In what used to be called Gypsy scams, criminals will approach a homeowner and use a combination of deception and fear to get a person to allow access to their homes.

Often, the victims are senior citizens, if only because the elderly tend to be a bit more trusting of a person in authority than younger folks. 

(Scammers will often wear green or yellow or orange utility-worker vests and flash official looking, but fake, ID cards showing that they are from ComEd or the city Water Department or some other agency.)

They typically claim there is a problem in the area, and they need to get inside the home to check out a concern. They often work in pairs—one “worker” distracts the homeowner while the other ransacks the home and steals whatever valuables he can get his hands on.

Officer Tracy encourages younger homeowners to keep a protective eye out for the elderly on their block. “These scammers have databases and they know where seniors live,” he says.

To seniors, he offers these words of common sense: “If something doesn’t feel right, it’s usually not right. The Water Department, ComEd…they won’t just flash an ID and barge into your home. Stop them. Don’t let them in. Keep your screen door locked. Talk to them through the screen. Tell them to wait because you’re calling the police to have them check on the validity of this. If they’re legitimate, they’ll stick around and let police check them out. If they’re up to no good, they’ll take off.”

Agreeing is GRNW President Al Cacciottolo.

"If you see something suspicious, call 911, and we'll nip a lot of this crap in the bud," Al says.

(Editor's note: As a reminder, here's something I wrote a few years back):

In October of 2012, a confidence artist tricked an 85-year-old West Elsdon woman into letting him in her house near 59th and Springfield---and she later discovered that her home's second floor was ransacked, with about $100,000 in savings bonds and cash stolen, along with other valuables.

The victim told police that at about 4:15 p.m., she was outside working in her yard when a man approached her and said he would be digging holes next to her property, but needed access to her house to check her electrical sockets.

The woman initially refused, saying "No. I don't let strange people in my house." The man then became irate and hollered "Do you want your house to blow up?!" The victim then relented and let the man in her house, but attempted to follow him through the rooms to make sure he stole nothing. After a while, he left. Later she noticed that he had apparently let an accomplice in via a seldom-used side door.
Missing from the ransacked second floor was a strong box containing $14,500 cash, four Series I U.S. Savings Bonds worth a total of $80,000, bank books for four savings accounts, five certificates of deposit, a life insurance policy and a birth certificate.

In November of 2013, an 82-year-old Garfield Ridge woman was swindled out of more than $1,500 cash by two thieves posing as Water Department employees. The men came to the woman's house near 52nd and Nottingham at about 1 p.m. on a Monday and said they needed to enter her basement to read the water meter. The thieves had no identification other than work vests, but the woman concluded they were legitimate and let them in.

While she was in the basement, one con artist ran the water in a basement sink (in an apparent attempt to muffle the sound of the other thief rummaging through the first floor of the home). After they left, the victim said she discovered $45 cash missing from her purse and $1,500 cash missing from her chiffonier.

The woman waited over 24 hours to notify police, because she said she was dumbfounded and embarrassed by the crime.

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