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Police Blotter – March 28, 2014 | Common tricks & scams to watch for

[Reprinted from The Richmond Police Station Newsletter of March 28, 2014. To be added to the station's mailing list, email sfpd.richmond.station@sfgov.org.]

From time to time, the officers at Richmond Station see cases where a criminal uses a trick or a scam to steal from trusting victims. By using deception, the criminal is trying to separate people from their money and valuables without being caught. The good news is that most suspects who use tricks and scams want to avoid a confrontation with their victims. Usually, they are non-violent and will quickly switch to another target if their intended victim doesn’t cooperate. Here are some examples of tricks or scams that we have seen in the Richmond.

An elderly gentleman was home when his doorbell rang. He opened the front door and saw a suspect at the bottom of the front steps, outside a locked gate. The suspect said he was working on the plumbing next door and needed to check in the victim’s backyard for water leaks. Because the suspect was insistent the victim finally let him in. The victim brought the suspect to the rear yard then had to sit down as he was out of breath. The suspect went into the yard but quickly came back in, opened the front door and let in a second suspect. The first suspect said he now needed to go upstairs to check for leaks. The victim tried to stop him but the second suspect stood in the way and distracted the victim by talking about a photo displayed on the wall. The victim became tired and sat down in a chair on the front porch, leaving the suspects alone in the house for several minutes. When the suspects came back downstairs, the victim saw that one of them was carrying a pillow case full of his property. The victim tried to grab the pillow case but was unsuccessful and the suspects drove off in a black newer model Toyota mini-van taking jewelry and cash with them.

Anytime that someone you don’t know wants to come into your house you should be suspicious of their story. If you ever have any doubt at all about someone, do not open your door. Call the SFPD and we will come out to check that the person is legitimate and that you are safe.

Another type of scam involves fooling the victim into making a payment via cash cards, wire transfers or similar remote, untraceable, non-refundable means. In one recent case, the criminal called a Richmond District business and said that he was from a utility company and was about to shut off the electricity unless the victim paid the bill immediately. The suspect demanded that the victim purchase a cash card as payment and then call back with the cash card number. The suspect then cashed out the card and was not heard from again. The victim called her utility company and they told her that there was no problem with her bill and that they were not the ones who called her.

Real utility companies do not demand immediate payment by untraceable transactions over the phone. You can always hang up and call the customer service number for the utility to verify the status of your account. We have also seen versions of this scam where the suspect claims to be from the IRS and demands payment of back taxes or the suspect claims to be a police officer and demands payment of bail or fines to avoid arrest.

In another scam the suspect contacts the victim (often by e-mail) and claims that the victim has won a huge lottery prize, but needs to pay an administrative processing fee to collect the money. Just as in the utility scam, the suspect will ask for payment by cash cards, wire transfers or similar remote, untraceable, non-refundable means.

Another variant on this scam is to contact a person saying that one of their friends or relatives is in legal trouble or had been robbed while abroad. The suspect will usually claim to represent an embassy or governmental agency and ask for money to be sent by a wire transfer.

The key to avoiding these types of scams is to be very suspicious of sending money via cash cards, wire transfers or other remote means unless you are absolutely certain about who you are sending the money to. If you simply refuse to go along with the scam, the suspect will find someone else who will. Most of the time, the person trying to scam you isn’t anywhere near you so there is little physical danger. As with any suspicious activity, you should call the police.

For those of you with elderly parents, please discuss this with them as they are often the targets of these scams.

Our next Community meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 6pm. It will be in the Community Room, here at Richmond Station, 461 6th Ave.

On 03/21/14 at 10:10pm, officers were called to the area of Fulton and 33rd Ave on a report of a male that had just been robbed on a 5 Fulton MUNI bus. The witness was following the group after they exited the bus and was providing a description and direction to 911. The officers arrived and detained four suspects at 34th and Cabrillo and an additional two at 43rd and Fulton. Officers learned from the witness that he had observed the suspects all gather around the victim on the bus and go through his backpack and pockets and flee after taking his wallet. Officers located the victim, who was intoxicated, at 33rd and Fulton. He said he got on the bus and the suspects were all sitting near the rear of the bus. He was suddenly surrounded by the suspects, one who took his phone, the other his wallet and contents. The suspects fled the bus and the victim informed the driver what had occurred. The victim’s wallet was located in the purse of one of the female suspects along with pepper spray that belonged to her. The phone was not located. The suspects between the ages of 15 to 21yrs were charged with robbery, conspiracy and possession of the pepper spray.

On 03/26/14 at 9:45pm, officers responded to 27th and California on a report of an injury accident where one of the drivers fled the scene on foot. The passenger in the vehicle where the driver fled provided the driver’s information to the officers who searched the area and located the driver on the 600 block of 27th Ave. The driver, whose license was suspended for driving under the influence, was also under the influence at this accident. The 29yr old male was charged with hit and run, driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license. The other party in the accident was transported to a local hospital for minor injuries later released.

Between n03/19/14, 3pm and 03/23/14, 11am on the 2900 block of Bush St, a suspect entered a vehicle that was parked on the street. There were no signs of forced entry into the vehicle and the suspect took several items, including the garage door remote. With the remote, the suspect entered the garage and took a bike and a laptop computer.

Between 03/21/14, 5pm and 03/22/13, 1pm on the 100 block of 12th Ave, a suspect entered the garage of a home under construction by unknown means. The suspect then took two sets of brand new kitchen appliances from the garage. This included refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers and oven hoods. The victim was told by a neighbor that he had seen a white box truck pull up in front of the victim’s home on 03/21. The three suspects were seen loading up the truck, and the witness didn’t realize that anything was wrong as he thought they were construction workers.

Between 03/21/14, 5pm and 03/25/14, 7:30am on the 400 block of 25th Ave, a suspect entered a multi-unit garage and took a bike. There were no signs of forced entry.

Between 03/22/14, 2pm and 03/23/14, 3:30pm on the 800 block of 30th Ave, a suspect entered a home through an open rear window. The suspect took a TV monitor, wallet and sound dock.

On 03/23/14, at 3:15pm on the 300 block of Spruce St, the resident of an apartment was home when he heard noises from the rear of his home. As he walked into his hallway he saw the suspect standing by his bedroom door. The victim asked the suspect what he was doing and the suspect replied, “My bad, I was just leaving.” The suspect then walked out the front door. The suspect entered through a rear unlocked window and there appeared to be no loss. The suspect was described as a black male, 20-25yrs, wearing a black baseball cap and a gray sweatshirt. He also had “bulging” eyes.

On 03/26/14 at 10am, the victim received three different messages on her home phone from a male who said he was from the IRS. The messages stated that she owed $290,000 in taxes and that if she didn’t call back and pay the debt she would be arrested. The victim felt that this was some type of fraud and confirmed with her accountant that her taxes were up to date. When the officer arrived they called the phone number that the suspect had left and when questioned by the officer the male admitted to making these calls to elders to gain money and didn’t care that an officer was calling him. The caller was apparently making this call from another country.

On 03/26/14 at 9:50am on the 3200 block of Geary, a male entered a business and asked the lone employee for an item. When the employee showed the suspect the item he said he wanted to see one less expensive. As they moved to another part of the store, the employee was then nudged in the back by the suspect. As the employee turned around, the suspect was holding a handgun and said, “Where are all your phones.” The employee replied that they were downstairs and the suspect directed the employee to the storage room. The employee was made to fill up several duffle bags with phones and iPods. When the bags were filled, the suspect attempted to lock the employee in the storage room as he went back upstairs. After several minutes the employee was able to get out and call 911. The suspect was described as a black male, 25yr, wearing a dark jacket with a hood and dark jogging pants with white stripes on the side.

On 03/26/14 at 3pm a business owner on Geary Blvd received a phone call from a male who said that he was from PG&E and that his account was past due for over $1400. The caller stated that unless payment was made within the next 40 minutes, his power would be turned off. The caller stated that the only type of payment they would accept is a Green Dot MoneyPak Card. The victim was suspicious of the caller, but sent his wife to purchase these cards as he attempted to contact PG&E. The victim was unable to reach a representative and the suspect continued to call and demand the codes from the back of the cards. Finally when the wife arrived back, the codes were provided to the suspect. Shortly after, the victim was able to talk to a representative and was told that his account was fine and that he was a victim of a scam.

On 03/27/14, between 3am and 4am, two vehicles were damaged by large cement pieces being thrown at their cars. One was parked on Balboa and La Playa, the other at 44th and Anza. The windshield and door windows were damaged and one victim found footprints on the hood of his vehicle.

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12:06 pm | Posted under Crime | 5 comments
  1. Alan said (03/29/14; 11:50 pm):

    Here is a video of how that ‘Water Leak Scam’ works. It’s from a very popular BBC series that lasted for 11 seasons, but has yet to be televised in the USA.

    The Real Hustle: The Bogus Workmen Scam


  2. Cha Sao Bao said (03/31/14; 3:07 pm):

    Some of these reports are downright terrible! People mugging people on bus, people breaking into private homes, people robbing businesses and just ghetto behavior! What is going on in the Richmond District and more importantly, in San Francisco?

  3. Tammy A. said (04/3/14; 3:11 pm):

    Oh my dear innocent Cha Sao Bao, this is unfortunately nothing new under the sun. I recall many crimes I’d heard of in the 1970s and 1980s first- or second-hand from my victim friends or family. Heck, my mom was mugged at 17th & Balboa during that time frame.

  4. Tammy A. said (04/3/14; 3:12 pm):

    Allow me to clarify: *my friends or family who had been victimized*

  5. Cabrillo neighbor said (04/7/14; 10:44 pm):

    Note the frequency in these bulletins of doors left unlocked, people drunk and unaware, zoned out on iPod/iPhone etc. Beware = Be Aware people! No one deserves to be victimized, but do what you can to not make yourself a target!

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