Police Sent Caution Against Scams Targeting the Elderly

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

November 16, 2005

Another woman was almost scammed this week. It's the lasted incident in a string of scams targeting the elderly. Each time the man comes to their door asking for money in exchange for yard work he never actually did.

The incident mentioned happened earlier this week to a 78-year-old woman along Otter Street. Fortunately she did not fall for it, so the man wound up with nothing, but that isn't always the case. Not everyone is as lucky and now Charlottesville Police want you to be on alert.

"[He asked me to] pay him, and later I found out that he hadn't really done anything," explained Freda Smith.

Smith recalled all to well the day back in August, when a man knocked on her door on Nelson drive and claimed he was down on his luck.

"He acted like he needed money and I have sympathy for people who are out of money, and I said 'well, maybe I can find something in the yard for you to do,'" said Smith.

The single 91-year-old woman eventually wrote the man a check for $720. But it wasn't until later that Smith checked the yard and realized he hadn't done a single thing and she'd been scammed.

"I feel like, when someone's talking to me, he's talking to me honestly, and I don't doubt people," said Smith.

That is exactly why Charlottesville Police say scam artists prey on the elderly; they're often easily intimidated. Police say Smith's story is not uncommon.

"There are a number of scam artists out there that will take advantage of them, will try to get them to pay them for work that they didn't do or that they don't need," said Sgt. Dave Jones of the Charlottesville Police Department.

Smith reported the scam to police and got her money back. Unfortunately, she learned the hard way who not to trust. But now police want to make sure what happened to Smith doesn't happen to you.

"Don't accept a door to door salesman's word that you need work done in your home. Have a professional look at it and get some estimates," explained Jones.

Police later caught the guy who ripped Smith off, but she dropped the case once she got her money back. Police say even though Smith trusted the guy, she did the right thing by reporting the scam.

For whatever reason, a lot of people don't report these types of incidents, but police say reporting a scam is the only way they can catch the person and try to stop them from doing it again.

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