Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summertime Thieves

July 7, 2010
Betty Kaiser

Sunshine and warm summer days have finally arrived along with some strange companions — burglars and scam artists. At the risk of putting a damper on rest and relaxation, today’s column is dedicated to some common sense reminders to keep your property safe while you’re on vacation. We begin with a reminder to stay calm and keep your wallet securely shut against telephone scam artists.

If you’re like me, you assume that phone calls targeting elderly grandparents with bad news about their grandchildren being arrested and needing money to bail them out of jail only happens to other people who live far, far away. Wrong!

Recently, a former neighbor’s family was targeted and she sent out this email warning. In the interest of confidentiality and safety, I am not revealing any of the family members names, only their general locations. Here’s the message:

“Warning. My daughter told me about a horrible, cruel scam that is taking place in your area (Lane County). Someone called her grandmother and said that her granddaughter was in Niagra Falls and was in a car accident and arrested for a DUI. The caller asked the grandmother to wire him money to bail the granddaughter out of jail.

“This, of course, was false. She was safe at home in the Pacific Northwest. This scammer looks for elderly people, finds out something about their family and then uses scare tactics to extort money from them.

“Her grandmother was understandably very upset. This is a horrible, cruel act to play on our elders. Please be aware of this scam and pass it on to those you love. Before they panic, send money or give out personal information to someone over the phone, tell them to call the supposed victim first to confirm if it is true or not. Never give out personal information over the phone and report these calls to the local police department.”

Fortunately, this family didn’t fall for the scam but evidently many people do. Otherwise, the con artists would stop conning!

The following information came to me in the form of an email entitled “Things your burglar won’t tell you.” My email sources indicated that this information came from but I couldn’t find it there. Another cited source was Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor who wrote a book titled “Burglars on the Job” after he interviewed 105 convicted burglars in Oregon, California, North Carolina and Kentucky.

The bottom line is that I don’t know where the following information comes from but it’s good stuff. So, whether you’re leaving home for the day or a month, I think you’ll find some valuable information here. This advice is given from the burglar’s perspective:

“Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working at your house and yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.”

“Those yard toys your kids leave out on the driveway always make me wonder what type of gaming system they might also have.”

“Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer on your front door to see how long it takes you to move it.”

“If decorative glass is part of your front door entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see whether or not it’s set. That makes my job too easy.”

“A good security company alarms the window over the sink and the second floor windows which often access the master bedroom and your jewelry. You should put motion detectors up there too.”

“To you, leaving your window open (just a crack) while you’re gone during the day, is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it’s an invitation.”

“I’m not complaining but why would you pay all that money for an alarm system and leave your house without setting it?”

“I love looking in your windows. I’m looking for signs that you’re home; for flat screen TVs or gaming systems. I’ll drive by or walk your neighborhood at night before you close the blinds to choose my targets.”

“Avoid announcing your vacation on your ‘Facebook’ page. It’s easy to look up your address.”

“I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions or offer to clean your gutters (don’t take me up on it).”

A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than an alarm system. If you’re reluctant to leave your TV on while you’re out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television.”

“If you don’t answer when I knock, I try the door. Sometimes I hit the jackpot and walk right in.”

“Sometimes I carry a clipboard. Sometimes I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.”

“The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.”

“I’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he’ll stop what he’s doing and wait to it again. If he doesn’t hear it again, he’s just go back to what he was doing. It’s human nature.”

“Here’s a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms.”

“Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside tables and the medicine cabinet. “

“You’re right, I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me.”

Have a safe summer everyone!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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