LARGO – Pinellas County Sheriff’s Burglary Unit is issuing a warning about scam artists who come south during the winter and a new twist on the homeowner diversion ruse.
The homeowner diversion scam involves two or three scammers in a team who arrive unannounced at a homeowner’s doorstep, trying to sell a service – driveway paving, roof repair, tree removal etc. During the course of their contact, they talk their way into the victim’s home. One suspect diverts the homeowners attention, while the others slip into other rooms – taking money, jewelry and other small valuables – before leaving through the front or side door.
Detectives report that the crimes started occurring in Pinellas in mid-November.
The latest twist is the seawall repair scam – where the homeowner is approached by the suspects who advise that while working on a neighbor’s seawall, the victim’s seawall was damaged. The suspects say they will repair the cracks with a chemical in a pump sprayer, and ask the homeowner to come out to look at the damaged seawall. There they “accidentally” spray the “repair chemical” on the homeowner’s hands, and tell the victim to wash quickly because the “chemical” will burn.
The suspects hurry the victim back inside the house – and while one suspect helps the homeowner wash their hands – the other suspect looks for jewelry money and small valuables.
Deputies responding to these incidents report the victim was not burned by a chemical or hurt in anyway. However, one victim lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and other small valuables during the diversion.
The two male suspects are described as white, in their 40’s. Witnesses saw the suspects driving a gray minivan. Another neighbor even saw them use walkie-talkies. In both cases, witnesses thought the men were pest control workers.
Deputies caution all homeowners to be suspicious of unscheduled service providers at the front door. Do not open the door to anyone you have not invited to be there. Call law enforcement to report suspicious activity in the neighborhood – or “service providers” who appear to be going door to door looking for “customers” – even checking the lock to see if anyone is home.
If you or someone you know have been victimized, please call law enforcement and report it.
The sheriff’s nonemergency number is 727-582-6200.