Aging at Home Safety Tip: Beware Door-to-Door Distraction Scams

Every spring, there is a noticeable uptick in the number of door-to-door “distraction burglaries” targeting the elderly. Many involve home improvement services, such as tree-trimming, driveway paving, roofing, and — as 75-year old Carol Krzywiec of West Covina, Calif., discovered — plumbing…

The man arrived at her door about 9:30 a.m. and said he had been working with a crew on a nearby water main and needed to check Krzywiec’s water supply for contamination…As the man went to supposedly check on the water fixtures, Krzywiec said she spotted from the corner of her eye a second man dart in her front door….

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When the victim questioned the bogus water company employee about the other man, she was told he was a “helper.” That was no lie. While “Rocko” (That’s the name the scammer gave Krzywiec) stalled, the second man flushed toilets and helped himself to $200 cash.

All the while, Rocko kept his victim busy. At one point he pulled out a $100 bill, claimed Krzywiec had overpaid the water company, and asked if she could make change. When Krzywiec said no, Rocko and his partner in crime hurried to finish their fake inspection and bolted.

Why bother with the $100 bill? Krzywiec believes it was to figure out where she kept her money when she went for change.

A classic distraction scam. One thief keeps an elderly victim busy while another quickly searches likely places for cash and valuables. Sometimes the distraction takes place inside. Sometimes the goal is to get the victim out of the house.

What’s the best way to yourself or an aging parent from a door-to-door distraction scam?

1. Don’t open the door! Most utility workers don’t just show up unannounced. You’re not being rude. You’re being smart by staying safe.

2. Don’t confirm a visitor’s identity by calling the number they give you! It’s way too easy to arrange for another scammer to answer your call and support the deception. Instead, take the time to look up the number and call yourself.

3. Never let an unknown visitor badger or bully you into letting them in. If they claim there is an emergency, call 911 to confirm. If 911 says there is no emergency in your area, ask 911 to connect you to the police.