CHICAGO (CBS) — A suburban couple lost nearly $50,000 just by stepping outside their home.
They’re not alone. Cook County sheriff’s police say at least 50 people have fallen for the same scam in just the past two months. It’s happened in suburbs like Barrington, Melrose Park, Burbank, Oak Lawn, as well as Stickney, Leyden and Elgin townships.
Detectives blame a quasi-mafia ring from Eastern Europe, which has been moving from suburb to suburb.
Victims say the people who are part of this ring are so convincing you don’t even know you’ve been had until it’s too late.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.
Lorraine Nocek says she and her husband, Stephen, were taken for between $45,000 and $48,000.
It all happened in a matter of minutes at their Leyden Township home. A man claiming to be their new neighbor came to their front door.
He told them he wanted to show them a spot in their yard where he needed to dig to put in a new pipe for water drainage. The Noceks say they believed him because the area had recently flooded.
“It sounded so realistic,” Stephen Nocek said.
The Noceks let the man into their home, allowing him to stand on their enclosed back porch, because it was raining. He began talking on the phone in a foreign language.
“Every victim that we’ve had says he immediately goes on the phone and starts speaking in a foreign language,” Cook County Det. Sgt. James Hennelly says. “That’s when the other two or three subjects come in and start rummaging through the house.”
The Noceks say the man posing as their new neighbor quickly got off the phone, ran through their home and outside to a waiting red car that took off.
“They are predators. They’re just like wolves,” Hennelly said. “They prey on older people specifically due to the older peoples’ trust.”
Hennelly says sometimes the scammers tell a senior their house is catching on fire or they’re in danger of getting electrocuted, as they try to coax them outside.
If someone comes to your door and says you’re in danger, lock the door and call 9-1-1.