Law enforcement warns again of thieves targeting elders

Jan 30, 2017

Police, troopers encouraging heightened sense of suspicion and self-protection, and is asking that family keep an eye on vulnerable elders. Scams, thefts targeting quick cash to "support habits," says DPD.

Local law enforcement in Bristol Bay have been tracking scams and thefts targeting elders over the past month.  KDLG’s Dave Bendinger has more.

Audio Transcript: The incidents reported to police so far amount to petty theft or attempts thereof.  Dillingham Police Chief Dan Pasquariello says one elderly gentleman who lives alone downtown has been targeted at least twice.

"On one occasion some unknown person just walked into his house, walked right past him, took his wallet, took sixty dollars out, and then fled before this old man could do anything about it," the chief said in an interview last week.

On another occasion, Pasquariello says another person came into the same house pretending to be a fuel company employee.

"The man looked around his house a little bit, tinkered with his stove, then asked the elder for his identification. He wanted the elder to hand him a driver’s license or ID card, at which point the elder caught on that things weren’t right and asked the man to leave, and he did so."

In another scam, police have filed charges against two women, Jacqueline Phillips and Shanna Schroeder, for targeting an elderly relative.

"We recently charged two women with forgery and theft where they had gone to where an elder lived, asked him for his driver’s license to put in some kind of administration file. The man gave them his driver’s license, once again believing this woman was an employee. That woman and her friend then took the man’s ID and a check that he had and went to a local store and cashed it."

Police noted several instances of similar behavior in town in 2016. Last May one 83-year-old gentleman shared his story of how a group of young people convinced him they were his new fuel salesmen and scammed him out of money.

“So I, sitting there, still feeling wrong, but gullible, sitting there … conned me out of money three times in a row. And I should’ve realized it, but, not with health-wise the way I was. Only afterwards did I realize it," Pat Durbin said at the time.

Pasquariello says his officers hear about these incidences, but probably not as often as they occur.

"People frequently, if they need money say to support some type of habit, will steal from their family as the easiest means to obtain funds. And if that well runs dry, then they start to prey on strangers, particularly the elderly."

State troopers reported a recent incident in Chignik Bay where an elder was asked for personal and credit card information by phone, and reported being harassed with verbal and abusive language by the unknown caller.

"When receiving such calls demanding personal or financial information, it is strongly recommended that you first request the caller’s full name, contact information, to include telephone number, and employer. Then hang up," wrote Sgt. Luis Nieves.

"Do not give out personal information to callers you don't know. Only give out information if you initiate the call and you are certain about the number you called (remember, some scammers will give you a false customer service number that will lead you to their scam partner). Never pay money to get a "free" prize or gift. If it sounds too good to be true, it always is," he advised.

Law enforcement is encouraging a heightened sense of suspicion and self-protection against these types of scams and thefts, and is asking that friends and family keep an eye on the vulnerable. Reports of suspected activity like this can be called in to police or troopers, the state’s consumer protection unit, or organizations like the Better Business Bureau.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.