HACKENSACK, N.J. – Thieves posing as utility workers, law enforcement and other occupations have been stealing money from elderly residents in Bergen County through “diversion burglaries,” authorities warned.
Residents recently have been victimized in Cliffside Park, East Rutherford, Garfield, Hasbrouck Heights, Lyndhurst, North Arlington, Palisades Park, Paramus, Saddle Brook, Waldwick and Wood-Ridge, they said.
The distraction-styled thefts ordinarily involve two bandits – one of whom keeps an elderly resident busy with a purported incident or emergency that requires entry into the home and another who ransacks the place.
“It is often difficult for the elderly to determine whether a “diversion burglar” is a legitimate utility employee, since utility companies employees are regularly in the community conducting official business,” Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal said Tuesday.
Besides pretending to work for the gas, electric, water or phone company, thieves have posed as municipal inspectors, handymen – and even police, he said.
Each time, the imposter “will try to take the homeowner to another part of the home or outside of the property, while an accomplice enters and burglarizes the home for cash and other valuables,” the prosecutor said.
To reduce your risk of becoming a victim, residents should be extremely careful about letting strangers in.
Grewal urged people to:
• Ask for proper identification
• Look for vehicles with proper logos
• Tell the worker that you are going to contact the respective company and the police department for verification, and have them wait outside. (If they leave the area, Call the police, as they will likely target another home).
“If there are any suspicions about a person’s identity, residents should immediately contact their local police department,” Grewal said.
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