Spring is here which means groups of individuals will be coming to our area to perpetrate various types of scams. If you fall victim to their schemes you will lose a lot of money. Two of our citizens have already been victimized by these individuals in the last two weeks so we know they are already in the Lehigh Valley. These thieves specifically target the elderly. Listed below are some of the types of scams to be on the look out for. All of them have been conducted in our city at one time or another.
DISTRACTION BURGLARIES: There will be two or more individuals during this operation. You will see only one of them. A male will knock on your door. He will probably have a maintenance uniform on of some kind. He will say that he is with the water department (or other utility) and that they are doing work in your area. He will ask to come in and will isolate you either in the basement or kitchen area. He will tell you to run the water and watch it so you can let him know when it appears to be dirty water. While you are distracted with this he will contact his partner(s) and tell them that it is safe to come into your home. Once inside they look for anything and everything worth stealing, especially safes.
They will leave quickly and you will never know they were in your house. They may also say they are working next door on a fence and get you to go outside to show them your lot line. While outside the suspect will engage you in conversation and his partners will go into your home. Once they are done they will call or radio the male you are talking to and he will then leave.
CHIMNEY CLEANING: The suspects will drive around neighborhoods looking for an elderly homeowner who has a chimney. They will note your address and research your phone number. You will then get a call, usually from a female. She will purport to be from a chimney cleaning company (recently they have used the name Tri-County Flues). She will tell you that you are due for a cleaning. She will offer this service at a very low price. Once the suspects are at your house they will discover a “serious problem” with your chimney insert, a problem which is a dangerous condition for your home. They will tell you that they need to install a new flue. But they never replace the insert and since it is not easily visible you may never realize it. They will charge between $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 for the work they never did.
SEAL-COATING DRIVEWAYS: Again, the suspects will drive around neighborhoods looking for elderly home owners with paved driveways. They will knock on your door and tell you they are already doing a driveway job in your neighborhood. They will then tell you that they have “left over material” and could seal your driveway at a discounted price since they were already there and have surplus materials. Once you agree they will spray a substance on your driveway. It is not sealant. It is a cheap mixture of chemicals that sprays on black but serves no structural purpose. They will charge you anywhere from $500.00 to thousands depending on what they think you will pay them.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR AND WHAT TO DO: During “distraction burglaries” the suspect will have a phone or a “walkie talkie” of some type. He will contact his conspirators using one of these devices and might speak in a foreign language.
Be suspicious of anyone stating they are a utility worker of any kind who needs to come into your home. They rely on the fact that you are a trusting person. If you believe anything mentioned above is happening or is about to happen to you, call the police immediately. Let us go out to your home neighborhood and try to verify that the person is legitimate. The descriptions of vehicles, people you saw, and the last known direction of travel is great information to tell our Communication Specialists (dispatchers) when you call us. Calling us will also help in arresting these individuals. They are very hard to catch as they roam from state to state and usually have many aliases.
Here is a useful link with information about dealing with contractors:
If you have any questions or helpful information about recent cases please contact:
Detective Robert Toronzi
City of Bethlehem Police Department