Ruse burglaries often target the elderly and are perpetrated by a pair of con-artists working as a team. The first conman draws the victim out of the house under some sort of pretext while the second conman enters the house and steals money and other valuables. In several recent area ruse burglaries, the conman posed as a utility worker and lured the victim outside claiming some problem with the homeowner’s gas or electric line.
In this particular case, the victim was lured outside by a “new neighbor” who was “admiring the landscaping.” The con-artist kept the elderly victim occupied while his partner entered the home. The victim told police that the conman received several calls on his cellphone during the course of their conversation (probably from his partner inside the residence). When the victim re-entered the home, they found it had been ransacked and discovered money missing.
Unfortunately this is a very common type of crime that has been on the uptick in the south suburbs. Here are some tips from the Oak Lawn Police Department for preventing this type of crime that were published in a recent Oak Lawn Patch article.
Senior Safety Tips for Preventing Ruse Burglaries
- Be aware of anyone coming to your door or approaching you for unsolicited business. Always keep the storm door knocked (sic).
- When outside gardening, carry a house key in your pocket and keep the doors to the home locked. Have a cell phone handy to call 911 should suspicious persons approach you.
- Take note of any vehicles in the area—cars, vans, trucks—that are suspicious or seem out of place, particularly those with missing front and/or read license plates, or vehicles that appear to be in shabby conditions with identifying business markings on the sides.
- Request identification from the person who approaches and tell them you will verify any work to be conducted in the area with the police.
- Keep jewelry and other valuables and cash in a safe place, preferably a bank safety deposit box.
- Ruse burglars are usually non-violent, but don’t confront them. If they’re inside your house, get to a phone if you can and call 911. You don’t have to speak to the operator, just leave the phone off the hook.
- Most ruse burglars are only in the house for five minutes or less. If you can’t get to a phone, try to get a license plate number and note the direction the offenders leave in. Call 911 immediately after they leave so police have a better chase of nabbing them.
Please share this information with your family and neighbors. Be vigilant and keep an eye out for suspicious persons in your neighborhood. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to call 9-1-1 if something doesn’t look right or feel right.