Elderly residents of Palos Park and surrounding communities periodically become victim to an unlawful (ruse) entry to their home. In most cases, no force is used to enter the home or against any resident. The offenders specifically target vulnerable elderly residents using their age against them. Unfortunately, many of these residents feel embarrassed at falling victim to these scams and fail to report it to the police.
About the Offenders
The offenders are usually males of various ages and operate in groups of two to four. They are often described as Hispanic, but are commonly identified as being associated with a European Criminal culture. They are dressed in utility worker uniforms and usually arrive in newer model SUVs, vans or pickup trucks.
Recent reports indicate they have applied for license plates or no front plate on the vehicle. They pose as new neighbors, local or municipal utility workers, repairmen, or contractors. They target elderly residents by the appearance of the residence, seeing them retrieve mail, or observing them in the yard, car, or garage.
One offender will usually approach the residence or victim quickly, engaging them in "fast talk" conversation, offering home repair work or walking into the house past the resident stating that they need to check electrical, plumbing, or another reported problem. They will not let the elderly victim use the phone or walk away from them.
Another method is to ask the victim to come outside to check trees or power lines at the rear of the yard. In either case, the other accompanying offenders will enter the house, without the homeowner's consent, to search for valuables.
These con artists are professional thieves who are very good at locating even the best hiding places for valuables in homes. They don’t spend much time at the house and by the time the resident realizes what happened, it’s too late.
Tips for Preventing a Scam
Elderly residents are reminded to:
- Always lock all doors, even when outside of your residence.
- Do not open the door for someone you don’t know or haven’t called for service.
- Your generation is very trusting and unfortunately, it makes you an easy victim.
- Call 9-1-1 if someone you don’t know is at your door. This is not an inconvenience to the police who will gladly come and check.
- Maintain the exterior of your home. An outdated appearance or home in need of even minor repairs can be an indicator to the con artist of a potential victim.
- If you see a suspicious vehicle that appears to be surveying the area, contact 9-1-1.
- Carry a cell phone at all times, especially when outside of your residence.
- Have a network of friends or neighbors who can look out for you.
- Always report suspected criminal activity to the police. You’re not alone as a victim.
Family members or relatives of elderly residents should share this safety information with their loved ones. Also, neighbors are encouraged to be attentive for activity placing their elderly neighbors at risk.