Scam artists preying on elderly residents

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Area police departments are warning that pairs of males described variously as white, Hispanic or Middle Eastern have been talking their way into the homes of elderly residents and robbing them over the past two weeks. Officials in Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and Elmwood Park say that one or more teams of males have been working in those suburbs, as well as on the northwest side of Chicago. Most of the incidents have occurred during the morning or afternoon, but police stress that such activities can occur at any time. The men represent themselves as either water department workers or repairmen looking for pipe leaks.

"We've been watching developments because they've become active," said Oak Park Deputy Chief Bob Scianna, referring to a number of crews known to police that engage in such crimes.

Just before 9 a.m., Dec. 7, two men attempted to talk their way into the home of an elderly woman on Jackson Avenue in River Forest. The men told the woman there had been a water pipe break, and needed access to her basement. They first tried to get $50 cash to fix the woman's pipe, then asked for a $500 check to do additional work. They left when the woman refused them entry.

Around 10:30, Dec.19, two men in dark clothing told a resident of the first block of LeMoyne Parkway in Oak Park that his neighbor's water was dirty, and that they needed to check his pipes. After the men had cleared items out from under the man's kitchen sink, the resident thought to ask for identification, and the two men left the house.

A Forest Park man in his 90s wasn't so lucky. On Dec. 16 he allowed a man who said he was there to read the water meter. After the man left, the homeowner found that $300 was missing from a table drawer in his bedroom. The man's son told police that his father had had money stolen earlier in the month after allowing a man inside who said he was there to check basement pipes for leaks?#34;$100 was missing after that incident.

Such incidents are apparently occurring over a wide area. Chicago police report at least six such robberies have occurred on the city's Northwest Side over the past several weeks.

Last Friday Chicago police announced that at least six such incidents also occurred on the Southwest Side of Chicago, involving males preying on elderly victims. Several Southwest Side victims report receiving telephone calls prior to being visited by strange men.

Scianna and River Forest Deputy Chief Dan Dooghie joined police officials in other jurisdictions in urging citizens to not hesitate to call village hall or police if they have any doubt as to the identity of people seeking entrance to their homes.

"The best way to avoid this is to not open your door," said Scianna. "If someone purports to be from the water department, call the police to verify. City workers all have identifications." In addition, police advised residents to report all suspicious activity in their neighborhood, and to write down the description and license plates, if possible, of any vehicles involved, as well as suspect descriptions.

?#34;Bill Dwyer

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