Some of the most prevalent crimes committed against the senior citizens in the Village of Phoenix are not personal violent crimes, but rather financial crimes. Fraudulent schemes that are particularly common to seniors include illegal door-to door sales, home improvement scams, mail order fraud, credit scams, telemarketing sales, internet and email solicitations, and social improvement activities.
Be skeptical about any proposals that sound too good to be true or must be kept a secret. Check it out with family, friends, lawyers or the police.
AWARENESS OF SCAMS:
- Always be skeptical of unsolicited calls.
- Be wary of door-to-door sales.
- Take time to think things through in the face of high pressure sales pitches.
- Take all the time you need to check out home improvement offers.
- Remember, you are entitled by law to cancel any transaction within 3 business days.
- Never sign a contract or make a purchase without fully understanding the agreement.
- Never give out a credit card, bank account or social security number over the phone.
- Do not be taken in by “YOU HAVE WON” notifications over the phone, mail or email.
- Do not assume that all “charitable” solicitations are legitimate.
- Do not do business with a company you know little about.
BE ESPECIALLY WARY OF:
- “Get Rich Quick schemes for which you have to put up “Good Faith Money”.
- “Good Deals” on expensive repairs or home improvement jobs.
- Investments that promise unusually large returns.
- Someone claiming you owe money for an item purchased by a deceased spouse or relative.
- Work at home schemes, supplemental insurance, or miracle cures.
Utility Cons: “The Inspector’:
A relatively new scam has cropped up in the past few years in which con artists posing as utility employees or inspectors try to gain entrance to your home in order to steal money and other valuables. They are very clever, usually working these cons when a utility vehicle is visible to the customer.
- Always ask for a photo identification card and check it.
- If you have questions about the i.d. ask for the supervisor’s number and call it.
Home Improvement: “The Home Repair Swindle”
In this case a “worker” tells a home owner that he had been working down the street and noticed that some item on the owner’s property has a “problem”. He claims to have left over material from the previous job and can help you out for the cost of his labor. If you accept his pitch, you’ll usually find out later that the work is either incomplete or poorly done and overpriced. The con artist has collected the money and disappeared.
- Repairs like this can damage or diminish the value of your property.
- Never hire a contractor who knocks on your door. Legitimate contractors won’t.
- Always insist on written estimates from licensed contractors.
- Get in writing a description of all work done and the full price of the job.
Telemarketing Fraud: The Free Prize and/or Vacation
Beware of the prize promoter who wants you to do or pay something in order to get a “free” prize, (usually worthless or overpriced) or a “free or low cost vacation”.
- Some con artists call daily until you feel they are friends.
- Always ask for and wait until you receive written information about a charity.
- Check out unfamiliar companies with a consumer affairs agency.
HOME DIVERSION BURGLARY
This scam usually occurs during the spring, summer or fall when residents are working outside. Most individuals working in their yard don’t lock the doors to their homes. One individual will approach the victim and occupy his/her attention while a second subject enters the home and steals cash, jewelry, etc.
Another home diversion technique is for the perpetrators to come to the residence and ask for a drink of water, use a bathroom, or use a telephone for an emergency to gain entrance to your home. The subjects will then attempt to divert your attention while an accomplice searches for valuables.
If an unknown person comes to your home seeking directions, the phone, or bathroom, keep the person outside the home and at least one locked door between you and them. If they need water direct them to an outside faucet. If they need to contact someone offer to make the call for them. When working in a yard, only leave a door unlocked that you can visually monitor at all times.
THE PIGEON DROP:
In the most common variation of this scheme, a person (“pigeon”) is approached by strangers who claim to have found a large bag containing money. The victim is convinced to put up “good faith money” to share in the find and is driven to his/her bank to obtain the money. The good faith money is then put into a parcel or purse for safekeeping and when the victim is distracted, the parcel containing his/her money is switched. The bogus parcel is then given to the victim for safekeeping and the strangers leave to make final arrangements and never return. Obviously, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it is.
The person in this scam claims to be from another country and has just inherited a large sum of money. He then displays a letter which states the law in his country prohibits him from returning with more than a small amount of U.S. currency. The swindler then solicits the victim’s assistance and either asks the victim to keep the money and periodically send small amounts of it back to them in their home country or make a small donation. In either case the victim is given the impression that this person will return to their country leaving their money behind. The con artist tells the victim that he trusts him; however, it will be necessary for him to prove he has money of his own so he won’t be tempted to keep the money. The victim then withdraws a large sum of money from his bank, the money is placed in a handkerchief or envelope along with the con artists money and a switch is made. The victim is given an identical envelope containing cut up paper and the con artist disappears never to be seen again.