Police: Beware of scammers

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Dearborn police are warning residents about scam artists in the area.

Police spokeswoman Nancy Hammoud-Strutz said that a notice was sent out June 30 to media as a reminder to be suspicious of strangers offering deals that seem too good to be true.

In the release, officials said thieves often approach houses where seniors live because they may have large amounts of money available and sometimes live alone.

Officials described a typical scam, in which one or two people knock on the door of a house and distract the homeowner by faking an illness, asking for a pen or paper to leave a note or looking for a lost pet. They then distract the victim while their accomplices go through the house and take jewelry or money.

The thieves take certain valuables and put everything back in place before they leave. Many times, the victims will not know anything is missing.

In another type of scam, the thieves offer to perform low-cost repair, such as a roof replacement, and ask for the payment up front in cash. Once they have the money, they vanish.

Better Business Bureau of Detroit & Eastern Michigan spokesman Patrick Bennett said that legitimate businesses will never ask for money in cash up front, and they will provide valid identification.

“They should be willing and able to provide information on the business, especially if they are coming up to front doors,” Bennett said. He added that consumers should also do their own research on an organization, including checking with family and friends, before doing any kind of business with a company.

The alert lists steps residents can take to avoid becoming a victim of a scam, including soliciting multiple estimates on any repair work. Bennett said any reputable business will make estimated available to potential customers.

Bennett said that anyone with concerns should contact the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission or the Michigan Attorney General’s office. He added that unscrupulous companies are out there, but consumers should not automatically distrust all offers.

“There’s always a few bad apples who ruin it for everyone,” Bennett said. “Be aware, not scared.”

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at dheraty@bewickpublications.com.)