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January 21, 2013

90-year-old man robbed of $20,000 in gas company scam

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

Police are once again cautioning residents, especially senior citizens, to beware of scammers attempting to rob victims by pretending to be in association with a business or organization.

The words of caution come after a 90-year-old Southfield resident who lives in the 25000 block of Coral Gables was robbed of $20,000 cash and his coin collection by a man who claimed to be an inspector from a gas company.

The incident happened at around 12:45 p.m. Jan. 19, according to Lt. Nick Loussia of the Southfield Police Department. The victim reported that a man dressed in a “uniform-type” shirt and pants knocked on the door and said he was with the gas company and needed to check the basement for a gas leak.

“The victim allowed the individual into his home, and the suspect began walking throughout the house. The victim advised that because of his age, he was not able to keep up with the suspect,” Loussia said.

After spending a short time inside the house, the man left in a newer-model Volkswagen, according to the report. Once the victim checked his home, he realized a large amount of cash had been stolen from his bedroom closet.

The suspect is described as being a white man approximately 40-50 years old, with blond hair and between 5 feet, 7 inches and 5 feet, 10 inches tall.

Loussia said this is the first in-person scam report he knows of in the area, though several older victims have reported being scammed over the phone this season.

Among the most notable is an incident in December, when an elderly man lost $25,000 to a phone hoax, according to Loussia. Other victims reported losing several thousand in similar situations of phony charities soliciting money over the phone or scammers pretending to be relatives in need of money.

Just as Loussia cautions that financial information should never be given out over the phone or to strangers, he also advises that residents of any age shouldn’t open the door for people they do not know — especially when a visitor is not expected.

“The most important thing I can stress is that you don’t have to open the door to talk to somebody,” Loussia said. “You can talk to them through a closed, locked door.”

Loussia added that if someone claims to be from a particular company, such as in the case of the robber pretending to check for a gas leak, residents should first contact the supposed company to confirm a representative will be out and get the name of the person before allowing someone into their home.

At press time authorities had no suspects in the gas leak scam. Anyone with information about the incident or other scams should contact the Southfield Police Department at (248) 796-5500.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.