Ruse Burglaries Expand Across US to California

Posted by , , at 8:07 am

Ruse burglaries have long been a staple in Chicago, Illinois and its suburbs, but we are seeing more reports from other areas of the US – California in particular. Since spring and summer seem to be the peak seasons for these types of crimes, this post should serves as a timely reminder with warmer weather just around the corner.

As I’ve written before, ruse burglaries start out with a deception and a distraction, and often end in significant losses for the unwary homeowner. In this news story from San Leandro, California, the homeowner experienced a significant loss of property – and a sense of violation. And in this case is that the burglar didn’t just pretend to be a handyman looking for work, but posed as a construction worker. Clever…

Investigators have issued a warning about letting unknown people into homes and yards after a man posing as a construction worker acted as a suspected decoy in a home burglary, police said. Police said a man came to a woman’s front door in the 2100 block of Pacific Avenue about 1 p.m. Monday and told her he was working on a neighboring property and may have damaged water pipes leading to her property. The man and the homeowner went to the backyard to check for potential leaks. They found none and the man left. When the woman returned inside she realized her house had been burglarized, most likely by the man’s accomplice, said Lt. Randall Brandt.

Classic Ruse Approach: Pretense & Accomplice

Typically what happens in a ruse burglary is that 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. While the homeowner is distracted, another individual will enter the home looking for valuables, notably jewelry or cash. Here’s another cautionary tale – this time from Long Beach, California, where the burglars acted as utility workers.

The Long Beach Police Department is alerting residents to reports of brazen persons who are going door to door in neighborhoods citywide impersonating city utility workers in an attempt to gain entry into houses and commit burglary. “In this scam, the bogus workers are apparently targeting homes to burglarize when no one is expected to be home, or working as a team to distract the occupant and burglarize the home,” LBPD said in a press release encouraging residents to be aware of what is being called a “utility worker scam.”

How They Operate

Though it is unclear how many incidents have occurred in this manner, Officer Juan Reyes of the North Patrol Division said that it has been common enough to raise alarm. He noted several reports where suspects wearing vests similar to the ones used by City utility workers knocked on doors and if no one was home, they then looked through windows and went into the backyard in an attempt to break in. If a resident answered the door, Reyes says that the suspects has prepared a ruse saying they were doing inspections and needed to come into the house. In one instance, the suspect was audacious enough to ask to use the restroom. In another, one suspect took the resident into the backyard while an accomplice burglarized the home.

What You Can Do

Police say there are several ways for residents to confirm whether or not they are interacting with a real City employee including: asking the person in question to show a City-issued identification card; verifying that the uniform is a City-specific one; or contacting Long Beach Gas and Oil or Long Beach Water Department to verify the legitimacy of the employee or work requested to be performed. “This has been a cause for concern, especially in the North Division where property crime has gone up in the last few years,” said Officer Reyes at a North Long Beach Community Action Group meeting on Sunday. “The good thing is that we have been getting more calls for suspicious activity lately, which is great because that means we have prevented more break-ins.”

Being savvy to how burglars operate is more important than ever – 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 technology, pricing, and customer satisfaction 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 wireless home alarm system, too.

Comments (4)

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  1. Jean

    Burglaries have been on the increase in our rural Ohio neighborhoods. Our local sheriff tells us these have been organized theft rings that operate as follows: a vehicle carrying multiple passengers (thieves) drops off the passengers in a neighborhood and then leaves the area but maintains cell phone contact with the crew. The thieves look for homes without vehicles visible (nobody home) and homes that are set back from neighbors and then knock on the door. If nobody answers the door, they gain entry by either forcing the door or breaking a window and gathering valuables. If somebody answers, they ask a question such as needing directions to somebody’s house or asking if they can charge their cell phone. Ultimately, the vehicle driver is able to pick up the crew and the loot and leave the area before any burglaries are reported. Sometimes, especially lately, alert neighbors call the sheriff about suspicious vehicles or suspicious people, and then the thieves are on the run, often abandoned by their driver and left to fend for themselves with law enforcement and canines. The one they caught last month hiding in our local library (charging his cell phone) after being chased by sheriff deputies going door to door had been stealing copper pipes in nearby basements. His driver and accomplices were not located. He had a long criminal history of breaking and entering, receiving stolen property, and reconveying stolen property and had an outstanding arrest warrant in a nearby county for an arson conviction. It is good to know these crimes could not proceed very far in a home protected by a FrontPoint security system.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Jean – thanks for the thoughtful and helpful commentary on what’s happening in your area. We call these bad guys “knock knock” burglars – the ones who case a home by knocking first to see who’s there, and then breaking in if the house is empty. Most burglaries happen during the day – many people are not aware of that. And that’s when it’s most important to have a monitored alarm system. I’ve posted about knock knock gangs all across the US – and am very sorry to hear that they are operating even in rural areas. With a burglary happening about once every 14 seconds in the US, according to the FBI, it’s amazing to me that only one in five homes has a monitored alarm system. But we are making headway – protecting one more home at a time! Thanks again.

  2. Jean

    Burglaries have been on the increase in our rural Ohio neighborhoods. Our local sheriff tells us these have been organized theft rings that operate as follows: a vehicle carrying multiple passengers (thieves) drops off the passengers in a neighborhood and then leaves the area but maintains cell phone contact with the crew. The thieves look for homes without vehicles visible (nobody home) and homes that are set back from neighbors and then knock on the door. If nobody answers the door, they gain entry by either forcing the door or breaking a window and gathering valuables. If somebody answers, they ask a question such as needing directions to somebody’s house or asking if they can charge their cell phone. Ultimately, the vehicle driver is able to pick up the crew and the loot and leave the area before any burglaries are reported. Sometimes, especially lately, alert neighbors call the sheriff about suspicious vehicles or suspicious people, and then the thieves are on the run, often abandoned by their driver and left to fend for themselves with law enforcement and canines. The one they caught last month hiding in our local library (charging his cell phone) after being chased by sheriff deputies going door to door had been stealing copper pipes in nearby basements. His driver and accomplices were not located. He had a long criminal history of breaking and entering, receiving stolen property, and reconveying stolen property and had an outstanding arrest warrant in a nearby county for an arson conviction. It is good to know these crimes could not proceed very far in a home protected by a FrontPoint security system.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Jean – thanks for the thoughtful and helpful commentary on what’s happening in your area. We call these bad guys “knock knock” burglars – the ones who case a home by knocking first to see who’s there, and then breaking in if the house is empty. Most burglaries happen during the day – many people are not aware of that. And that’s when it’s most important to have a monitored alarm system. I’ve posted about knock knock gangs all across the US – and am very sorry to hear that they are operating even in rural areas. With a burglary happening about once every 14 seconds in the US, according to the FBI, it’s amazing to me that only one in five homes has a monitored alarm system. But we are making headway – protecting one more home at a time! Thanks again.

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