Scam artists preying on elderly residents

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by Bill Dwyer

Area police departments are warning that pairs of males described variously as white, hispanic or middle eastern have been talking their way into the homes of elderly residents and robbing them over the past two weeks.

Officials in Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and Elmwood Park say that one or more teams of males have been working in those suburbs, as well as on the northwest side of Chicago. Most of the incidents have occurred during the morning or afternoon, but police stress that such activities can occur at any time. The men represent themselves as either water department workers or repairmen looking for pipe leaks. They arrive in pick up trucks, SUVs or vans that look like work trucks, but have no IDs.

"We've been watching developments because they've become active," said Oak Park Deputy Chief Bob Scianna, referring to a number of crews known to police that engage in such crimes.

Just before 9 a.m. Dec. 7 two men attempted to talk their way into the home of an elderly woman on Jackson Ave. in River Forest. The men told the woman there had been a water pipe break, and they needed access to her basement. They first tried to get $50 cash to fix the woman's pipe, then asked for a $500 check to do additional work. They left when the woman refused them entry.

Around 1:20 p.m. on Dec. 20, two men in dark clothing told a resident of the first block of LeMoyne Parkway in Oak Park that his neighbor's water was dirty, and that they needed to check his pipes. The men then entered the home without permission, and after the men had cleared items out from under the man's kitchen sink, the resident asked for identification and the two men left the house.

A Forest Park man in his 90's wasn't so lucky. On Dec. 16 he allowed a man into his home on Dunlop Street who said he was there to read the water meter. After the man left, the home owner found that $300 was missing from a dresser drawer in his bedroom. The man's son told police that his father had $100 stolen earlier in the month after allowing a man inside who said he was there to check basement pipes for leaks.

Scianna and River Forest Deputy Chief Dan Dooghie joined officials in other jurisdictions in urging citizens to not hesitate to call their village hall or police if they have any doubt as to the identity of people seeking entrance to their homes.

"The best way to avoid this is to not open your door," said Scianna. "If someone purports to be from the water department, call the police to verify. City workers all have identifications."


 

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