Reminder: Common scams and distraction thefts

[A reader alerted me that she was approached by apparent scammers offering to patch/seal/ or re-pave her driveway.

I haven’t been able to confirm details with police, so I won’t post the company name. But it’s a good time to repost the following warning police shared in May 2014.]

Southborough Police asked me to share a warning with homeowners about scams that operate in the area. These are crimes that have occured in town in the past and pop up all over the country this time of year.

The biggest con is pressuring home owners, especially seniors, into quick driveway or home repairs – urgent deals based on “extra” supplies. But other cons to gain access to your house, such as posing as utility men or even asking to have a child use your bathroom.

The warning also explains distraction thefts, like people entering your home while you are mowing the lawn or answering someone’s questions for directions. Police remind you to keep your home secure, even when you are in the yard. And since conmen prey on weakness and kindness, they also urge you to look out for the well being of elderly neighbors.

The SPD urges you to call them at (508) 485-2121 if you have questions, or if unfamiliar people or companies appear at your door or in your neighborhood.

The Southborough Police would like to alert you to asphalt paving and home repair scams that are common in the spring and summer seasons.

A man knocks on your door and says that he has extra asphalt, roofing materials, paint, or other home repair materials and is willing to pave your driveway, patch a roof, paint or perform other household repairs at a discounted price. His high pressure approach confuses and intimidates you.

BEWARE! You are not getting a deal, you are being scammed.

If you agree to let them perform the work, here is what will likely happen. Men and equipment suddenly appear and begin “working” on your driveway, roof, or other area in or around your home. At some point, the conman claims a mistake was made and you owe thousands more than the original price. He threatens that if you refuse to pay, the “work” will cease. You may even be escorted to the bank to withdraw money. When you realize that it is a scam, you will try to cancel the check only to learn it was cashed within minutes of it being written. Paving, roofing, and other similar scams like this occur regularly in Massachusetts and increase during the spring and summer months. They have been reported within the town of Southborough, as well. 

The perpetrators target senior citizens and are well known to police across the country. Criminal charges vary by state but are commonly filed.

Similarly these same individuals may pose as utility workers and attempt to gain entry into the home by a ruse (Ex. A water pipe is broken down the street and they need access to the basement). While the homeowner is distracted, a second person will enter the house and steal money, checkbooks, jewelry, gold, silver or other valuables.

These groups also use women and children to perpetrate their crimes. They may approach your home and ask for directions; ask to use your phone; or if a child can use the bathroom. While you are distracted with them at the front door, other men, women, or children will enter your home and steal valuable items from the back of your house.

They are also known for driving around neighborhoods and entering homes when they see the homeowners outside doing yard work. Always keep the doors to your house secure, even if you are in your own front or back yard. Avoid victimization and consider the following suggestions:

  • Beware of unsolicited offers to do paving, roofing, or other repair work. Do not let the solicitors inside your home. Calmly but firmly tell the solicitors you are not interested, and tell them to leave your property. If they refuse your instructions- CALL THE POLICE.
  • Educate yourself and your family. Search the internet for “paving scams” and “distraction scams”.
  • Ask to see proof of the solicitors’ insurance. Con men rarely have worker’s compensation insurance and if one of them is injured at your home, the claim could be made against your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Call the police if they begin “working” without your consent for service.
  • Do not let people into your home to use the bathroom or phone. Do not let an unannounced utility worker into your home. Utility companies such as National Grid will generally notify the public if there is work being done in their area prior to beginning work. If you are unsure if a utility worker is there for a legitimate purpose, call the Southborough Police Department and we can help verify if there is a utility problem in your area.
  • Be a good neighbor. These types of scams target senior citizens.

Please call the Southborough Police Department at (508) 485-2121 if you have questions, or if unfamiliar people or companies appear at your door or in your neighborhood. This article is intended as a public service announcement. It is a warning that joins numerous similar warnings that have appeared in newspapers, on television, and have been sent out by the AARP. Your vigilance will help the Southborough Police Department in our effort to keep Southborough safe and secure. When faced with one of these scammers remember, there is no such thing as “extra” asphalt.

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