“Ruse burglaries” are now cropping up across the US, which is a new development. Once thought to be isolated to the Chicago area, this specific type of residential crime is spreading – and fast. Three recent articles demonstrate the trend, and I am seeing more and more of these every week. The bad news is that with spring approaching, I know I’ll see even more reports. These home intrusions start out with a deception and a distraction, and often end in significant losses for the unwary homeowner. In this first news story from Houston, TX, the police are on the defensive – and asking for your help.
Investigators are hoping the public can help identify a suspect in a home burglary in the 9800 block of Palmfield. It happened around 5 p.m. on January 7, 2012. Police said the suspect, believed to be in his late-40s or early-50s, approached a 75-year-old woman in her front yard and told her he was with CenterPoint Energy. The suspect told the woman he needed to speak with her about rerouting power lines in her back yard. The woman followed the suspect into her yard, and at some point during the conversation, she said the man abruptly walked off toward Old Galveston Road. The victim then went back inside her house and saw her purse and its contents dumped on the floor. She later discovered cash and jewelry were missing from her home. The suspect reportedly has stained teeth and is believed to be a smoker. He’s about 5 feet, 8 inches tall and has a very unkempt appearance.
More Warnings from Lake County, IL
Local police are warning residents to be on the lookout for potential home scam artists after several “ruse burglaries” have been reported in the area. Police in Mundelein, Libertyville and Vernon Hills and other Lake County communities have all reported incidences in recent months of individuals posing as utility workers, contractors, landscapers and government employees that distract homeowners while others enter their homes to steal. The burglars typically target elderly residents.
Classic Approach: Pretense Plus Accomplice
Typically what happens in a ruse burglary is one of two individuals come to the door and tell the resident they work for the utility company, cable company or a landscaping business and need to do work in the backyard, Mundelein Deputy Police Chief John Monahan said. While distracting the homeowner, another individual will enter the home looking for valuables, notably jewelry or cash.
The most recent one occurred on Nov. 28 where a Hispanic male came to the door of an elderly woman, said he needed to check something in the home, but she refused to let him inside, according to Vernon Hills Crime Prevention Officer Sharon Joseph. The other one occurred in August where a Hispanic male came to the door of a male resident and told him he needed to replace a water pipe and check the water pressure. “They’ll use any kind of excuse to try to get the resident away from the front door so their friends can come in (and steal items),” she added.
Gwinnett police are warning about a growing number of home burglary scams in which the suspects either act like they know the victims or pretend that they are at the residence to work. Walton County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Bruce Wright and Loganville Police Chief Mike McHugh warned local seniors to be on the lookout for similar type scams. “We know seniors are the easiest people to scam,” Wright said.
What You Can Do
“If something doesn’t look right, call a neighbor, call one of your children or call 911. We would rather you call 911 and come out to find it was something legitimate than have you not call,” McHugh added. In Gwinnett, two such cases were reported recently in Lilburn, Cpl. Jake Smith said in an email. In both, the suspects used the same mode of operation, pretending they were there to work. “In each case a Hispanic male lured the victim to the back of the home to inspect the property line,” according to the email. “The suspect spoke on a walkie-talkie in Spanish to an unknown person while with the victims. The victims later reported that they were missing jewelry and cash.” The suspects appear to target elderly, white females.
Being wise to the ways of the burglar is important – and while protecting against the ruse may not be one of FrontPoint’s Top 10 Home Security Tips, it’s still a good tactic to know. Anything that increases your safety, security, and peace of mind is important to us. We’re the leader in wireless home security, and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US – and we earned that spot with advanced technology, affordable pricing, and unmatched customer service that leaves the others far behind. These days, you even have to worry about some of the alarm salesmen coming to your door! That’s why smart shoppers choose FrontPoint – just read the reviews, and you’ll want a FrontPoint system too.