On June 18, 2014, KIRO TV in Bellevue, Washington reported that police had arrested U Hyon Yi for targeting and scamming three elderly victims. He befriended the women, earning their trust by offering to do odd jobs for them around the house. Once that trust was established, Yi asked to borrow thousands of dollars, starting he was trying to start his own construction business. He gave them handwritten IOUs and promised to pay them back with interest. He continued the scam by telling them he was not paying them back because the IRS had frozen his bank accounts over a tax dispute. Overall, police believe he stole at least $400,000 from the three women.
On February 16, 2015, NBC News in Miami, Florida reported that police had arrested Niraj Sethi for scamming senior citizens out of money. He would pose as a contractor, agree to do work for individuals, obtain a deposit in the thousands of dollars for the jobs, and then run off with the money never to return.
On May 1, 2015, Texas-based KCEN TV reported that police had arrested 45 year old Ronald Wayne Pruitt for scamming elderly residents throughout central Texas. Pruitt would knock on the doors of elderly individuals and state he was an employee of the power company who needed to enter the residence. He would then check their breaker box, claim it was broken and that he had repaired it, and ask for immediate payment.
These are just three recent examples of untrustworthy individuals targeting senior citizens to rob them of their modest income. Unfortunately, far too many criminals view older Americans, especially those living alone, as an easy target. In Elgin, Illinois, local law enforcement is working with the Kane County Sheriff’s Office and local Senior Services to educate seniors regarding this threat and how to approach strangers with a healthy dose of skepticism.
In early May 2015, the trio hosted a session called “Who is Knocking on your Door,” in which they had police officers, city workers, delivery personnel, and local utility representatives show off their uniforms. The idea behind the event was that by educating seniors on how these individuals should be dressed, it will help them identify those lying about their identities.
After the “fashion show,” police reminded seniors that scammers often investigate their targets in advance, and tend to single out those living alone. These scammers are banking on the fact that seniors are too polite to ask them to verify their identities, or to ask them to wait at the door, while they call the company the scammers say they work for, themselves. Police reminded everyone in the room to always look an individual at their door over to make sure their outfit matches what they are telling you, ask for verifying identification, and also check to see if there is an appropriately labeled vehicle parked in their driveway or further down the road. The main message is that seniors should always trust their gut, never let anyone suspicious into their home, and most of all, remember it is perfectly OK to not answer the door at all.