There are probably unlimited ways to rile up your neighbors. Here’s a new one:
A young man offered to clear the trash and dead plants off a property on the 6900 block of Eastwood Street for $10. The homeowner said OK, according to her neighbor, who asked not to be named. However, instead of hauling away the trash and debris, the guy threw it over a fence onto the neighbor’s property.
“I came home and there was trash all over my lawn,” the neighbor said. She recognized some of trash was from the adjacent property and complained to that homeowner, who then cleaned up the mess.
Not the biggest scam in that it involved only 10 bucks and a lot of cleanup, but it’s indicative of what some people will do to get over on others.
It’s a new one on the cops, said Capt. Frank Palumbo, the 2nd District’s commander, but the real problem is that nobody reported these incidents to police, which then keeps these con artists out on the streets, free to keep their schemes alive.
“Call 911,” Palumbo said during an April 4 interview at district headquarters on Levick Street. “I can’t emphasize that strongly enough. Call us. You’re not bothering us.”
Assorted schemes are spring things in Philly.
Just as daffodil and tulip bulbs are pushing growth out of the ground, guys turn up on Northeast doorsteps trying to push their way into homes, hoping to con people out of cash or swipe their valuables.
“They generally show up as the weather warms up,” the captain said, adding the scammers are from out of the area, traveling from one jurisdiction to another.
Almost always, these out-of-town crooks, or “travelers,” target older residents who they feel are easier to intimidate or coerce, Palumbo said. Most victims, the captain said, are at least 70 years old. In the 2nd District, he said, they seem to favor homes north of Tyson Avenue.
There’s one scheme that is used so often you might call it a classic:
A guy shows up at a door in what looks like a utility company uniform. He tells the homeowner there is some sort of emergency and he has to check some pipes in the basement. The man at the door is only a distraction. Frequently, as the homeowner accompanies the phony gas man or Water Department worker downstairs, an accomplice gets into the house and starts searching for stuff to steal.
“They do this because it works. … They’re good at searching areas of a house where older people might stash valuables,” Palumbo said.
Most of these crooks are men, Palumbo said, but last year, a woman got into homes by asking to use a phone to report an emergency.
“Under no circumstances, let anyone into your home,” he said. When targets tell the people at their doors that they are checking with their companies, they usually leave, the captain said.
Stephanie Ahrndt, the 2nd’s victim assistance officer, has put together a sheet of tips to help people avoid being victimized.
One scam involves adults coming with children, asking for a drink for the kids. Once inside, they steal.
“It could be a young or pregnant woman at the door,” according to Ahrndt. “These scammers come in all shapes and sizes.”
She also advised being suspicious of any contractors offering cheap and quick home repairs, and never pay up front.
Another scheme police are seeing this year involves phony car repairs. The victim is spotted outside and told there is a dent on a car that an accommodating stranger can fix for a very good price.
“The offer normally is too good to be true,” Palumbo said.
And, the work turns out to be shoddy and the demanded payment is much, much higher than the victims recall being quoted, he said.
The Northeast Times reported an example of this scam on March 26. A 94-year-old World War II veteran was cheated out of payment for repair of a “wobbling wheel” on his car. Somebody tried to pull a similar trick on another senior citizen, but she didn’t fall for it and notified police, said Capt. Shawn Trush.
Trush, commander of the Northeast Detective Division, also emphasized the importance of telling police about scams, but he said he realized some senior citizens don’t want their families to know they’ve been had.
“They’re afraid they’ll lose their independence,” he said, so they keep quiet.
And, he said, all kinds of people become victims.
“All occupations get swindled,” he said. ••