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Under My Hat: Crime comes a-knockin'

Published February 05. 2018 06:35PM

Spring is around the corner and it brings both good and bad.

Warmer weather typically harbors a return of thieves and door-to-door scammers.

Truth is, they’re already here. They’re up to their shenanigans and they’re dangerous. Take my word for it.

I have firsthand experience.

It was Jan. 23 at 2:30 p.m. and I was relaxing at home.

All of a sudden my front doorbell rang repeatedly accompanied by a few hard knocks. There seemed to be a sense of urgency.

Before I answered, I peeked out my front window and noticed a Hispanic man, about 30 years old, dressed in dark overalls.

I opened the door slightly.

“Are you the homeowner,” he asked, with a noticeable accent and suspicious demeanor.

“Yes,” I said.

“Do you know what’s going on,” he asked. “We’re working on water pipes down the street and we need you to check your water pressure.”

He motioned for me to turn around so that he could follow me into the house. Yeah, right.

I recognized the tactic as a very common scam.

“My water pressure is fine,” I said.

“Well, can’t you just go in and check for sure,” he snapped.

“My water pressure is FINE,” I repeated, with a tone of insistence that carried a message I was on to the hoax.

“OK. Thank you,” he said, turning around and quickly walking away.

As he did, I slammed the door. By the time I scooted to the front window to see where he was headed, he had vanished. He disappeared so fast it was remarkable.

I realized I had averted a potentially bad situation.

I reflected on what had just taken place. The man wore no official uniform, nor was there a car or service truck parked anywhere near.

Plus, I don’t think he acted alone.

He most certainly had accomplices, one of whom likely was stationed around the side of the house and maybe another in a getaway car parked around the corner, out of sight.

That’s how the scam works.

I immediately phoned Rush Township police and furnished as many details as possible.

“We’ll send out a car,” said an officer.

By then, however, the offenders likely had zoomed away to the open highway looking for a better prospect.

Still, I was happy for the concern and fast response by Rush Township officers.

In fact, police notified the township maintenance crew. They dispatched a truck to my house within 10 minutes to notify me that no water line work was taking place anywhere in the municipality.

Of course, I figured as much.

“You were targeted,” said the township worker.

The experience was unsettling. Sure, I had recognized attempted fraud and foiled the scheme. But it was still unsettling.

And it just goes to show that even potential robbers can have a bad day.

Out of all of the random houses for them to select to pull their ploy, they picked the home of the guy who writes for the newspaper.

After fleeing Hometown, the scofflaws apparently hit pay dirt up the line.

I know this because, two days later, television news reported that a homeowner in Jenkins Township was victimized the same way. But in that case, the elderly man let the guy inside. The homeowner was held in his basement under threat of harm while two accomplices robbed the house.

A neighbor’s security camera caught the three as they fled. One of the guys looked very familiar.

I hope the reprobates get caught. I hope their luck runs out.

The purpose of this column is to warn you, or at least remind you, of this type of scheme.

Whatever you do, don’t let a stranger into your house to check your wiring, your plumbing, your water pressure, or anything at all.

Ask for identification. Better yet, close your door and call your municipality, or the utility, to verify.

Don’t be a victim.

As for me, I’m installing security cameras. I probably should’ve had them all along.

But I grew up in a different era.

Believe it or not, we didn’t even lock our doors at night in 1950s and ’60s Tamaqua.

A touch of trust permeated daily life in a small town.

Folks didn’t lock their cars either. It was unnecessary back then. People had respect for each other and we knew our neighbors.

At the very least, we never had to worry when the doorbell rang.

Sadly, those days are gone.

We’re living in a much different world, sharing space with strangers, some of whom are only passing through to see what they can steal. Today, crime comes a-knockin’.

Mayberry is only a memory.

But it was a great place to grow up.

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