Scams Hit Northwest Indiana

Scam artists and less-than-honest businesses seem to be running wild in Northwest Indiana lately. Within one week, three different articles appeared in the NWI Times:

  1. AG Zoeller files lawsuits against local businesses
  2. National rental scam reaches NWI
  3. C.P. police warn of telephone scam; two residents victims

We’ve got a full line of scams and rip-offs here: car dealerships rolling back odometers, shady mortgage schemes, the grandchild-in-trouble telephone scam and a few Craigslist rental property scams.

The articles above do a fine job of presenting the details of each situation; no need to rehash here. The real lesson is this: always be aware of potential scams, watch out for anyone promising to lower your mortgage payment, never take an online classified ad at face value, never wire money to anyone who contacted you first, and always get a Carfax report before you buy a used auto.

The bad guys are out there, and they have a variety of methods at their disposal. All the rest of us can do is be informed, ask questions and stay vigilant. But those simple tools go a long way towards keeping yourself away from scams and fraud.

Yet another type of scam that targets the elderly: home repair/utility scams

Wednesday’s edition of the NWI Times had an article called “Lansing police warning of scam against elderly.” It’s specific to one incident in one location, but the lessons apply to everyone.

This is another con that’s been around forever and is currently experiencing a resurgence. A group of people (usually three men) shows up at your door, claiming to represent a utility company or similar. While two crooks distract the homeowner by “checking the utility box” or something, the other searches the house for cash and valuables.

To me, this is a far worse situation than wiring money to a thief overseas, even though your monetary losses may be smaller. I mean, these people are in your house. If you’ve let them in, then suddenly realize your mistake, and they know you’ve figured them out, you could be in real, immediate, physical danger. A frightened criminal is a dangerous criminal.

Crooks pulling this con usually concentrate on the elderly, so make sure your parents, grandparents, and others know not to let anyone in their house who just shows up on their doorstep, no matter who they claim to be.

If a group of people shows up at your door, asking to be let in to “check” something, politely decline and close and lock your door. If you think there’s the remotest possibility that they might be telling the truth, call the utility company and ask. However, since real utility companies almost never operate in this manner, I’d call the police instead. If they’re really from the utility company, two things will be true:

  1. They won’t run away the second you shut the door
  2. They’ll understand why you reacted as you did, and will be able to prove that they are who they claim to be.

Stay vigilant out there, and make sure any elderly people in your family or neighborhood know about this scheme.