Keep an eye out for a home repair fraud that involves a ruse to get inside your home, police said.
A group of men tried to pull the scam at the home of a 78-year-old woman, according to North Aurora police. The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. Jan. 19 on the 100 block of South River Road (Route 25).
A man came to the woman’s door and offered to repair her driveway by fixing the cracks and resurfacing the driveway with a “new type of coating,” not blacktop. He said the work would cost $1,000 and would come with an eight-year guarantee. He provided some fliers with the company name of “Father and Son Construction.”
The woman agreed to the repair but asked for some written paperwork. When she was going to write a check for the repairs, the man said the work would cost $200 more, “to cover taxes,” if she paid by check. So the woman agreed to go to the bank to get the cash.
Two younger men came into the kitchen and said they needed hot water to begin the repairs. One of them began to look downstairs but was told by the woman that there was no water downstairs. Then the men and the woman left the house.
As the woman was leaving to go to the bank, she wrote down the license plate of the mens' pickup truck on one of their fliers and placed it in her purse. The older man saw her write the plate down and then asked her for the flyer back so he could “attach it to the paperwork” he was going to make for her. She handed him another flyer that she had not written on. The man looked at both sides of the flyer and handed it back to her saying he didn’t “need it back after all.”
The woman went to the bank, leaving her adult son to watch the repairs. They left right after the woman left, promising to come back on Monday to complete the repairs. They never returned.
No payment was ever made and nothing appeared to be missing from the woman’s home, police said.
According to police, the men were described as:
- White male, 40-50 years old, medium height wearing a ball cap & sunglasses
- White male, late 20s, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, ball cap and hoody
- White male, late 20s, very thin, wearing a hoody with the hood always up. He also had wires or some type of dental device sticking out of his mouth.
The men's truck was described as a black pickup truck. The woman’s son noticed that the truck only had a couple of buckets and a small ladder in the pickup, which caused him to be suspicious since they didn’t have tools that one would expect to resurface a driveway.
A license plate check by officers revealed that the truck was registered to a known suspect thought to commit home repair and ruse entry scams in the Chicago area.
Many times in these types of scams, once inside a person’s home, one suspect will try to distract the victim while other suspects quietly search areas where cash, small valuables and jewelry are commonly kept. The victims of these types of crimes often don’t know anything is missing until the suspects are long gone.
Common reasons scammers will give to get into your house is to get hot water for the repair or pose as a utility worker needing to check the gas, electric or water.
Officers believe that the woman was targeted because of her age, which is common in these type of scams. But the scam was unsuccessful because the woman and her son did not allow the men to slip away unescorted into her home and because the woman obtained the license plate of the men's truck.
How to Avoid a Scam
The North Aurora Police Department recommends the following to prevent you from becoming a victim of a home repair fraud or ruse entry scam:
- Never let strangers into your home.
- Do not rely solely on ID cards purporting to be from a utility company. Anyone with basic computer skills can make a fake ID card.
- Legitimate service people usually arrive in official vehicles with the utility company or business name prominently displayed.
- If you have any doubts about letting a service person inside your home, do not let them in. Call 911 and ask the dispatcher if city departments are aware of utility problems in your area.
- When hiring for home repairs, use reputable business or people that you know. Check references and call the Better Business Bureau to learn more about the company.
- Real city and utility workers will never have a problem with you calling their department to confirm their identity and reason for being there.
- If there were a real emergency requiring an evacuation (i.e. gas leak), the notification would done by uniformed police officers and/or firefighters.
Additional information is available from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/homerepair_construction.html.