Con artists trick 92-year-old Polk Co. man, steal valuables

Distraction scams sweeping the Bay area
Posted at 7:32 PM, Jan 20, 2017

An elderly Polk County man is warning the community not to do what he did by falling victim to clever con artists.

The 92-year-old man, who ABC Action News agreed not to identify, is one of several victims of so-called distraction burglaries popping up all over the Bay area.

“I thought, damn, they’ve been in the jewelry box,” he said Friday morning.

He lost close to $5 thousand  in precious jewels that belonged to his late wife.

“A lot of that stuff was really personal,” he added.

The most shocking part isn’t what the thieves stole from his home, but how they did it.

He said a couple of men came to his door and claimed to be with the city water department and needed to check out a leak.

They asked him to hold the hose out back while they dropped in some dye.

“I said I’m not holding the hose for 10 minutes, I said you hold it!” He said.

By the time he walked back inside and down the hall, someone with the man already found his wife’s jewelry box and left.

“They scam you over the phone, they scam you over the computer, and now they do it face to face,” said Carrie Horstman with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators are calling it a new trend that started in South Florida last year and has slowly migrated to the Tampa Bay Area.

So far this month there have been four of these distraction-type burglaries in Polk County.

Lakeland Police recently released a sketch of two suspects from a similar case in Lakeland.

Investigators believe it’s probably the same group behind all of them.

“Hopefully there’s a special place in hell for people who do that kind of thing to older people. It’s just not right,” the man’s son told ABC Action News.

The victim has learned his lesson.

“I thought of all the things that I should have done that I didn’t do,” he said.

He won’t be letting anyone inside his home anytime soon, unless he gets a close hard look at their credentials.