RIVERWOODS (STMW) — An automated crime alert may have helped foil a burglary in north suburban Riverwoods.

A Farner Court resident said she had an unexpected visitor knock on the door at 4 p.m. Dec. 21.

The man claimed to be a utility worker but had no uniform or identification, according to a police report. He told the woman that there was an explosion in the area, and he needed to check out her stove.

That’s when the homeowner remembered the phone call. A few days earlier, Riverwoods police put out a recorded message to local homes warning of a similar scam reported around the northern suburbs lately, including Buffalo Grove and Niles.

“We told them to be on the lookout for people claiming to be utility workers and not having ID,” Police Chief Bruce Dayno said. “She actually said to the guy, ‘The police told me about you. I’m calling the police.'”

There was no explosion, it turns out. The bogus story was just another variation on a common burglary ploy, according to police.

The scam usually involves a visitor purporting to be a utility employee or construction worker. The whole point is to distract the resident long enough for someone — often an unseen accomplice — to get inside the home and swipe some valuables.

“There’s different groups that do these kinds of things and all different kinds of ruses,” Dayno said. “They will say there are water leaks, or that they are doing construction on the neighbor’s fence and they need you to show where to put it — whatever they can come up with to keep you busy in an unoccupied part of the house or the yard while their accomplices come in and steal something.”

The only thing different this time around is the cover story.

“It’s the first I’ve heard of a gas explosion,” the police chief said.

When the resident confronted the man, he fled the scene. He was described as having a dark beard and driving a white four-door car.

Police advise residents to ask visitors for identification and to call up the utility company to confirm if the visit is legitimate before allowing anyone inside the home.

Watch & Listen LIVE