Suspect(s) will pretend to be legitimate worker(s) and approach senior
citizen home owners at their residences with a seemingly legitimate ruse.
Their real purpose is to divert the homeowner while their accomplices
search for currency and jewelry.
Some of the more frequently used ploys by the suspects are: indicating
they are from the local gas/electric company; posing as a water department
employee to inspect the water pipes and/or to replace the water meter; a
request to use the bathroom; a cable TV company employee; roofing/gutter
repair and paving company contractor; city inspector(s), surveyor(s), and
tree trimmer(s); or government personnel from a social service agency.
Many of the impostor burglars now have bogus photo identification cards,
legitimate looking work uniforms, and vehicles made to look like government
or company vehicles. They may also communicate with hand-held radios or cell
Women and children may also accompany male suspects and participate in the
diversion of the homeowner.
The suspects may offer a partial rebate by giving the victim a $100 bill
and a request for change. This allows the suspect(s) to determine where the
victim keeps their money. The victim is distracted either inside the house
by turning a light switch on and off, knocking on water pipes, etc.; or
showing the victim damage outside of the home, determining property lines,
etc. Once the victim is distracted, the unseen suspects enter the home and
remove the money and jewelry. In some cases, the suspects have also removed
safes from the home.
While many of these offenses are only distraction theft/burglaries, an
increasing pattern of violence is emerging. Most of the violence occurs when the
victim becomes aware of the distraction and tries to prevent the criminals from
taking his/her valuables. In these cases, the victim is overpowered with force
by the suspects; the offense then turns into an assault and robbery. In the last
few years, an increasing number of offenders have begun using violence in lieu
of distraction as their method of operation.
Home Repair Fraud
Nationwide, billions of dollars are lost every year due to home repair
frauds targeted against senior citizens; however, anyone - not just senior
citizens - can be the victim of a home repair fraud. According to the
Illinois Attorney General's Office, construction and home repair frauds
were the leading complaints in 1998 with 2,395 compared to 1999 which had
2,141 complaints filed.
A common scenario includes:
Senior citizens are approached by individuals offering to perform
various home repair jobs such as asphalt paving; driveway repair; roof
or gutter repair; chimney cleaning; tree trimming; etc.
The perpetrators claim to have materials left over from other jobs;
can offer significant discounts; or they were sent by a close relative
Once the job is completed, however, the cost of the work is several
times more than the first quote; payment is demanded in cash. To ensure
payment in cash, the con artist may accompany the victim to the bank.
If the opportunity is available, these home repair con artists may
also commit a burglary.
The work is usually shoddy (inferior) and/or incomplete. Other types of
repair/inspection frauds can involve furnaces, chimneys, water heaters,
water pressure, electrical wiring, window repair, and cement repair.
Home Invasion Burglary
The burglary team usually consists of two to four people. In many
cases, a male will drive three females to the targeted area. The male
driver either cruises the neighborhood or parks away from the targeted
The female suspects will roam the neighborhood looking to approach
senior citizens while working in their yards.
One suspect will distract the homeowner by asking any number of
questions. The second suspect will then go into the unlocked residence
and steal cash and/or jewelry.
Suspects will sometimes knock or ring the door bell. The suspects will
pretend to be ill; ask for a drink of water; ask if the house is for
sale; ask about previous owner(s); pretend to be looking for a lost pet;
or any excuse to get inside the home.
If confronted by the homeowner, the burglary team will use any type of
simple distraction, e.g., need a drink of water; use of phone or
bathroom; looking for a lost pet or rental property; and sale of
Theft of cash, jewelry, or silver occurs with no ransacking. Several
days or weeks can pass before the homeowner realizes she/he has been the
victim of a burglary. The suspects are careful to put everything back in
Travel Trailer Sale Scam
Initially, the suspect purchases a low grade of travel trailer(s)
direct from a manufacturer.
The suspect sells the travel trailer to the victim using documents
which misrepresent the value of the trailer.
The suspect fails to register the trailer, which is still titled to
the manufacturer so it can be sold as "new."
Handkerchief Switch Scam
The victim is approached by the first suspect who pretends to be from
out of the country; and is unfamiliar with United States banking
procedures, with a large sum of money;
After the second suspect arrives, the victim is persuaded to make a
bank withdrawal to show the first suspect how the bank works;
The victim is induced to believe control of all the money will be
retained by the victim; right after, the suspects will indicate they
need to leave for a short time;
All of the money is then placed into an envelope, but a switch occurs
before the victim takes control of the envelope;
Afterward, the victim opens the envelope which only contains cut-up
The suspect approaches the property owner/victim and offers to prune
The property owner/victim is charged per limb; it is not per tree as
initially implied by the suspect;
The cuttings are "balled" with soil, and quickly sold to the
property owner/victim as seedlings.
Badge Come Back Scam
The Badge Come Back Scam can be used after almost any criminal
activity, but it is primarily seen after the Handkerchief Switch and
Pigeon Drop Scams.
The intended victim of the Handkerchief Switch is approached by the
suspect who is posing as a "police officer".
The victim is told the "police" are aware of the crime, and
a corrupt bank official was involved.
The victim is then persuaded to make a bank withdrawal believing it
will help catch the corrupt official and recover the lost money.
In many cases, the victim fails to report the initial scam to the real
If you are a victim of this type of scam, REMEMBER to report both
scams to the police.
Motor Vehicle Repair and Sales Scams
The suspect does a poor quality of curb side repairs to the vehicle; a
high payment is also extorted from the victim;
The suspect sells the used vehicle after doing an odometer
The suspect sells the victim a vehicle which has an "open
Fortune Telling - Monetary Gain
Many high school students and young adults visit fortune tellers for
entertainment, however, most high school students do not possess the
financial holdings a criminal fortune teller is looking for. Working
professionals and senior citizens are more opportune targets. Criminal
fortune tellers know most individual problems concern health, wealth, or
love. According to experienced investigators, initial contact with some
victims is made at fairs, carnivals, newspaper ads, and hand flyers. If the
victim is in a vulnerable emotional state, the criminal fortune teller
attempts to work a curse removal scheme or bujo (boo-joo). The
following is a fictional example of how a bujo progresses.
Jane Doe is a middle-aged, well educated, professional. Her husband of 25
years dies; she has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness. Every
day on her way home from the office, Jane passes "Mrs. XYZ's Psychic
Readings." Jane decides to stop one afternoon for the $5 special. After
an initial tarot (pronounced ta-roe) card reading or maybe a little palm
reading, the "psychic" informs Jane there is indeed some
"dark evil" surrounding her life, which needs to be removed.
After several visits, Jane is told the "dark evil" surrounding
her life is being caused by her late husband's insurance money. The
"psychic" rubs an egg around Jane's body to absorb some of the
evil. When the egg is cracked open, an ugly, disgusting mass (usually made
up of hair, bread, and maybe a small plastic devil's head) is discovered
inside the egg.
The "psychic" tells Jane she must bury the insurance money in
the graveyard. Jane is understandably reluctant to perform such an act. The
"psychic," pretending to be a compassionate person, volunteers to
bury the money for Jane (the psychic buries the money right into her own
Jane's curse removal therapy continues for the next year. After several
thousand dollars of her money has been "cleansed," the
"psychic" suddenly disappears, probably to another state. The bujo
is now complete.
How do criminal fortune tellers convince their customers of their
supernatural ability to predict the future? They rely on a technique called "cold
reading." By using a series of generalized statements, vague enough
to fit anyone, the victim is convinced the statements are specific to their
life. When a "cold reader" combines a gimmick such as tarot cards,
tea leaves, a crystal ball, or palm reading with generalized personality
statements, the illusion of psychic ability is created.
Theft by deception is illegal. It is the responsibility of law
enforcement to protect those who cannot protect themselves.Aggressive
prosecution and public education are two key factors in reducing potential
victims from these con artists.
Don't let embarrassment prevent you from reporting criminal
activity. The con artist relies on their victims being reluctant to
admit they have been scammed.
If you have been a victim or know someone who has been victimized by a
criminal fortune teller, please report the incident to your nearest law
These scams are just a few of the numerous frauds perpetrated annually. Each
year thousands of victims lose millions of dollars from these scams. The
deception list continues to grow each year, making scams, their victims, and the
exact dollar amount almost impossible to track. Anyone can become the victim.
People of all ages, educational levels, and incomes fall victim to scams daily.
Gathering and sharing of information is vital, especially when you are
dealing with these transient, criminal suspects, and the thefts, scams, and
frauds they perpetrate.