Be on alert for traveling con artists

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 8, 2003

A large group of traveling con artists who are targeting senior citizens in the Birmingham area could be moving southward and Pike Countains are urged to exercise caution when hiring strangers to do outside household chores.

Roxie Kitchens, Regions Bank branch manager, said she received a fraud alert from corporate security in Birmingham alert her to the situation.

&uot;The members of the group tell the victims of their crimes that they will perform minor outside household chores for them, such as raking leaves, cleaning gutters or pressure washing the house, for a small fee,&uot; Kitchens said. &uot;The fee is usually $20 or $30. The scam artists usually work in teams of two and require payments in check form.&uot;

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Kitchens said according to information she has received, the scam artists then alter the checks in amounts of $2,000 or $3,000 before presenting the check for payment.

&uot;Sometimes they convince their victims to sign bank checks and fill in even larger amounts,&uot; she said.

Because victims of such crimes are often embarrassed to call law enforcement authorities, some of the crimes go unreported.

Sgt. Benny Scarbrough, public information officer for the Troy Police Department, said scams of this kind occur all across the country and Pike Countians need to be aware that such activity is occurring as close as Birmingham.

&uot;Our citizens need to be aware that it is happening and be very careful when hiring someone they don't know to do work for them,&uot; he said. &uot;To conduct any kind of business within the city of Troy a person must have a license. Asking to see a license before agreeing to let someone do work around the house would be a good idea.&uot;

Scarbrough said anyone who feels uncomfortable when approached by persons asking to do work should call the Troy Police Department at 566-0500.

&uot;We'll come out and make sure that person is doing legitimate business within our city,&uot; he said. &uot;We'll do everything we can to make sure that no one takes advantage of our citizens.&uot;

And, if there are those who fall prey to these traveling con artists, Scarbrough said reporting the fraud to law enforcement officers could prevent it from happening to others and, perhaps, lead to an arrest.