Conman Crackdown: Cops warn of rise in ruse burglaries - Fox 2 News Headlines

Conman Crackdown: Cops warn of rise in ruse burglaries

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Police are seeing a trend in what they call "ruse burglaries," where a charming, fast-talking suspect uses the element of urgency to con their way into someone's home—usually, someone elderly. The outcome can be devastating for the victims, including life savings lost in a matter of minutes.

Now, the Cook County Sheriff's Police are using a new weapon to catch the bad guys before their next sweet talking swindle.

Antonina, who asked us not to use her last name, is still dealing with the trauma of being conned by a man who claimed he was from ComEd and who urgently insisted he needed to check her electrical outlets for potential damage caused by a fire down the street.

""Somebody ring the doorbell, and usually I won't let nobody in, I don't know what happened that day," burglary victim Antonina says. "He told me, ‘I am an electrician from ComEd.'"

He make me feel very friendly, very comfortable," she explains. "Very nice."

Antonina fell victim to a crime that police call a ruse burglary, with a scheme crooks have used countless times.

"They'll usher them to a point of the house where they're kinda separated from the rest of the house and they keep them distracted," Cook County Sheriff's Police Detective Michael Dwyer says. "They'll talk fast, they'll keep talking, they'll keep moving, but they'll keep them focused away."

In Antonina's case the con man ushered her into the kitchen and gave her the contraption to test the outlets.

"So we check all the outlets. He said ‘you don't have no damage so far. Now we got to concentrate on this one,'" she recalls, walking to the kitchen.

He said, ‘these are the most important because it's water here, the refrigerator and everything,'" Antonina continues. "And we stay here. He tell me ‘push that thing over there, and move them up and down in and out and in and see if some shock coming.'"

There were no problems with the outlets. The shock came after the man left and Antonina discovered several of her bedroom drawers had been ransacked and three to four thousand dollars in gold jewelry had been stolen.

Police say Antonina was fortunate compared to some ruse burglary victims.

"You get sometimes where it's a couple dollars missing, but there have been numerous ones where it's hundreds of thousands of dollars, life savings in cash and gold taken away," Dwyer says.

The Cook County Sheriff's Police say these crimes are tough to track, so they are now compiling and sharing burglary report data with agencies across the county. They are also internally classifying which ones are actual ruse burglaries, to better target those responsible.

"Burglary crews are probably responsible for the bulk of the burglaries that take place, so if we're able to identify those burglary crews and dismantle them and not just displace them from one agency or one municipality to another, once we break down and get them charged, we will see a reduction in burglaries," says John Blair, Director of Cook County Sheriff's Intelligence Center.

For Antonina, the burglars weren't quite as slick as they thought. They had to leave behind the mangled safe they couldn't pry open because they couldn't find the key to the deadbolt to open the basement door.

Antonina says she now keeps all her valuables at a bank for safe keeping.

The sheriff's department says their best advice to people is if you didn't call and ask for someone to come to your home, don't let them in and if you are not sure if someone posing as a worker is legitimate, call police. If that person has nothing to hide, they will wait around.

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