SCAM ALERT: Distraction Scammers Targeting Unsuspecting Homeowners, Especially the Elderly
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SCAM ALERT: Distraction Scammers Targeting Unsuspecting Homeowners, Especially the Elderly

These crooks generally work as a pair or as a three-person team, tricking and stealing from their victims through distraction

April 22, 2020

Do you answer the door when strangers come knocking? You're probably pretty cautious and make sure they stay outside. Once you allow them to enter your home, however, clever thieves work quickly and seamlessly to distract you in order to steal your valuables. And while this technique is more frequently used to victimize the elderly, anyone can become a victim. So know how to spot the warning signs.

getting into your home

These crooks generally work as a two or three-person team moving from one home to the next. In an effort to trick homeowners and to give them a false sense of reassurance, they often pretend to have met or done work for them previously. They may also claim to have known a close family member or to have previously lived in the neighborhood. But these criminals are quick witted and can come up with a variety of stories on the fly in order to fit the situation.

Distracting you once inside

After gaining entry to a potential victim's home, one scammer engages the victim in a conversation, which could be casual or about a particular sales pitch, such as with flooring samples brought into the home. In any case, the goal of the conversation is to distract you from the other scammers, who then take the opportunity to slip away in order to steal credit cards, cash, jewelry and other valuables. The scammers then typically move on to another area or neighborhood in order to disappear from your sights and to victimize someone else.

many Versions of This Con

In another version of this scam, the con team consists of two women, one of whom is supposedly pregnant and in some kind of distress. They appear at a potential victim's door and ask if the pregnant woman can use the bathroom. While one crook engages the victim in conversation or makes a telephone call, the other collects valuables while pretending to use the bathroom.

Distraction scammers have also been known to masquerade as plainclothes police officers looking for an escaped prisoner or as utility company employees taking indoor measurements for home energy saving projects. But remember that criminals are cunning and have so many different ploys that we can't list them here.

Scammer could be alone

Don't forget that it's perfectly possible for someone working alone to both distract and steal from you at the same time. So don't think you're safe if only one person shows up. The scammer could distract you by swapping a lot of money back and forth, by spilling something or simply getting you to look at something far away.

Always Use Caution When a Stranger shows up

It really doesn't matter who comes to your door. Everyone, especially the elderly, should be careful when someone comes to the door. And while unexpected visitors are more suspicious, you should also be paying attention to people you are expecting, such as cable installers and delivery workers. Anyone can steal from you. Just because you're expecting someone doesn't mean you can drop your guard.

If you aren't expecting someone, don't let that person into your home under any circumstance. While most people who come to your door are probably legitimate and have no intention to harm you, you can't be certain. If you feel uncomfortable or that you are in danger, call 911 immediately.