The summer months can bring some unwelcomed visitors to our homes, according to an article by the Pennsylvania State Police. On their website, they warn the public about transient, or travelling criminals, who prey on unsuspecting residents, particularly older Pennsylvanians.
There are 2 common schemes that a transient criminal uses to access someone’s home: home-repair scams and diversion thefts/imposter frauds. In home-repair scams, an individual may come to the door offering services such as sealing a driveway, fixing a roof, or other repairs done at a very low price. They may say that they were “working in the area” or have “extra material left over.” They may offer a discount for cash payment. But when the job is finished, the final price may be much higher than the original estimate and the materials used may be of lower quality.
In diversion thefts/imposter frauds, an individual may try to distract a homeowner by pretending to be ill, asking for a drink of water, or saying that they are looking for a lost dog. To access a home, the person may pose as a repairman from a local utilities company. They may wear what appears to be a uniform and may present an identification badge. The purpose is to distract the homeowner while unseen accomplices enter the residence to steal valuables and cash.
To keep yourself safe, follow these tips:
Keep your front and back doors locked when doing yard work, going to the street to get the mail, or doing any errands that take you away from your home.
Be careful about leaving anyone you don’t know into your home. Don’t allow strangers inside your home, even if they appear to be in distress or with a young child.
If a person comes to your home claiming to be from a utility company, call the company by phone to verify that this person is one of their employees before letting them into your home. Even if they present an identification card, criminals have been known to make fake ID cards.
Beware of unsolicited home repairmen. Never deal with door-to-door contractors. If you need home repair services, deal with local people recommended by friends or reputable building supply stores. Also, request local references. You can check your municipality’s building officials or the Better Business Bureau to be sure an individual is legitimate. Contractors should be properly licensed, bonded, and insured. Under the state’s Home Improvement Law, all contractors must be licensed in Pennsylvania and their paperwork must show the company’s licensing number.
Be suspicious of high-pressure sales tactics. Get written contracts with explicit specifications of the work, the price, the responsibility for cleaning up, and the hourly rate for any added work.
Be sure the work is done to your satisfaction before making the final payment. Require a guarantee on the work and pay by check so you can stop payment if necessary.
Write down the license plate number of any vehicles if you think someone is acting suspiciously. Get a good physical description of any suspicious person who comes to you door.
When in doubt, call the police immediately to report the incident. Don’t be embarrassed that you may have been victimized or swindled.