Distraction burglars targeting York County seniors

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
  • Police urge people to keep their house and car doors locked, and not to allow yourself to be lured away from your home.

Two elderly York County residents who live about 40 miles apart lost cash and other items when they were targeted by distraction burglars last week, police said.

Lt. David Lash of Northern York County Regional Police said investigators from his department are working with state police to see if the crimes are connected.

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"I believe there's a chance that they are related," he said, despite the two victims living so far apart.

The two distraction burglaries happened June 21 and share similarities, according to Lash — including the description of a scammer involved and the circumstances of the crimes themselves.

An 86-year-old woman who lives on Capitol Hill Road in Franklin Township, outside Dillsburg, lost thousands of dollars when she was lured away from her house, Lash said.

'Tree removal': About 8 p.m., a man knocked on her door, said he was with a tree service and was doing tree removal at the far edge of her property for the state Department of Transportation, police said.

At his request, she walked with him to the edge of her property so they could discuss which trees were being removed.

The woman was away from her house for about 20 minutes, police said.

When she and the man walked back to her house, he got into the passenger side of a dark-colored sedan that drove off, according to police.

The woman later discovered her jewelry and floor safe were missing, according to Lash. She told officers the safe was heavy and that at least two people would have been needed to carry it.

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Brown-haired scammer: The man who lured her away from her home is stocky, perhaps 40 to 50 years old, with brown hair. He was wearing a yellow baseball cap, a white T-shirt and a Sherwin Williams work shirt, according to police.

"Her losses are in the thousands of dollars," Lash said.

Earlier that day, distraction burglars targeted a 90-year-old woman on Hickory Road in Hopewell Township, located between Stewartstown and Cross Roads.

Between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., a man knocked on her door and claimed to have done work on her house when she wasn't there, according to state police.

Refused a check: He wanted payment but refused to take a check, troopers said.

The woman gave him $300 cash that she had hidden inside her home, at which point he asked to use her bathroom.

After using the bathroom, the man left in a white Ford pickup truck with a roll bar in the bed of the truck, troopers said.

The woman told police she then realized the rest of the money that had been hidden in her home was gone.

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Protecting yourself: Senior citizens are often the targets of all kinds of scams, according to Lash.

"They tend to be a more trusting generation and take people at face value," he said. "They also tend to have a higher likelihood of having cash in their residence."

That's because many older Americans lived through the Great Depression "and tend to keep their money close at hand," Lash said.

He urged everyone, not just seniors, to keep their house and car doors locked at all times — "even if you live in the middle of nowhere."

Check 'em out: If someone unexpected knocks at your door, check their identities as thoroughly as possible before opening the door to them or going outside with them.

Questions residents should ask themselves include, is the person wearing a uniform? And does the supposed company truck have a logo on it?

People also should call the company a person claims to be with and ask if the company has sent a work crew to their neighborhood, Lash said.

Residents also can simply call 911 if they can't satisfactorily identify the person at their door.

"Our officers will be happy to come out and make sure they're legitimate," Lash said.

"Don't ever be lured out of your house without calling someone else to come over first," the lieutenant said, so a second person can guard your home.

Summertime is prime time for scammers of all kinds, Lash warned, including driveway paving scammers who claim to have "extra material" they can use to spruce up a driveway.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.