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Police warn public about springtime scams

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 31 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 02 2013 06:42:31 AM CDT

Police warn public about springtime scams

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Police say springtime scams are in full bloom in Bethlehem.

They're warning homeowners to be extra vigilant in the weeks ahead.

A lot of the scams have to do with some type of spring cleaning or maintenance.

Police say the targets are older homeowners who live alone.

Detectives in Bethlehem say criminals are driving around the streets looking for their next victim.

"They will pre-surveil their target," said Detective Robert Toronzi, from the Bethlehem Police Department.  "If that means they see them walking from a church, they follow them. They see them by themselves, what house they go into."

Police say once the crooks have their target, the scam begins.

So far three types have been on the rise in Bethlehem.

One is a driveway sealant scam.

"They'll spray this chemical -- it's not sealant. It has no structural purpose ever," added Toronzi.

For that job they will try to charge anywhere from $500 to $1,000.

There is also a chimney sweep scam.

Workers call the homeowner to say it's time for routine maintenance and they need to replace an insert.

Police say they don't change anything, but charge up to $2,000.

"A lot of times because you can't see it. You don't know they didn't do it," said Toronzi.

The most popular scam is the distraction scam.

Police say victims can lose thousands of dollars in cash, jewelry and other items.

The scams starts with a person knocking on your door saying he works for the water department or other utility.

"They'll try to isolate you so they'll either have you go in the kitchen or if you go to a wash basin downstairs, they'll tell you go down there turn on the water and let it run," said Toronzi.

That is when the criminals call their accomplices and strike.

"The rest of them will enter the house, particularly go in the bedrooms," added Toronzi. "They particularly look for safes, they look under mattresses for cash."

If you are suspicious of a person at your door, police say call the cops first before letting them do any work. 

So far only two cases have been reported.

If anyone else has been scammed they are asking you to call Bethlehem Police.