Fake workers target homeowners


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - We're getting more reports of scammers targeting older homeowners in Marion and Johnson Counties.

Police say people are pretending to be utility workers or tree trimmers, but really just want to steal your stuff.

The basic M.O.?

Distract, get in, and burglarize.

"They're constantly coming up with new scams or new ways to get into houses," said Colonel Randy Werden, Chief Deputy with the Johnson County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators say the latest fake workers claim to be with a utility company installing power poles.

An elderly homeowner, targeted near Whiteland, is now very afraid. She told investigators that a couple of men lingered near a black van with Illinois plates out front, while another guy in a green vest tried to lure her outside to walk the property line. When asked, he wouldn't reveal what company he worked for.

Police say that's likely because he didn't really work for any utility.

"He said he wanted to see her property line. She pointed to it, but that wasn't good enough. They wanted her to step out of the house and walk over to it. Then they wanted to go further into the back of the house, away from the house as far as possible," Werden said. "I think they knew she was becoming suspicious. They said 'we'll leave you our business card in the mailbox' and basically drove away. There was no business card left in the mailbox."

Police say she did the right thing.

But more scammers are out there. There have been at least five such incidents reported to police over the past five days across Johnson and Marion Counties. They're not all the same suspect descriptions, but all have the same method: fake workers claiming to be utility linemen or tree trimmers, coaxing homeowner outside so they can get in.

Three times, police say the criminals did get into people's homes, stealing jewelry and other items.

As we shared Monday night, a Korean War veteran became a victim near County Line Road in Indianapolis. A fake tree trimmer distracted him on the lawn, while the partner in crime, ransacked the house.

"And that's when they stole her gold watch, the Kruger rand, and my star sapphire white gold ring," explained the victim, William Sudkamp. "I guess I don't suspect people."

It's why police are putting out a warning to keep this from happening again.

"Trust your gut I guess is the easiest thing to say," Werden said.

Don't go outside with someone if you're not comfortable. Ask for contractors' ID and company name and call police if you're suspicious. Investigators don't want scammers literally banking on people's trust, especially our older neighbors.

"Normally, it is the elderly because unfortunately they're too trusting," Werden said. "You know, they just hate to think there's evil out there, but unfortunately there is."

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