Home burglary scams can happen to anyone
But beware, says a 90-year-old woman who was recently robbed of $60,000 in jewelry by two men who used a ruse to gain entry into her Agoura Hills home.
The theft occurred between noon and 2 p.m. on Aug. 6 in the Hillrise community not far from the 101 Freeway.
“A guy knocked on the door. He had a big white pickup truck with a sign on the side that had a name and phone number. He said a co-worker was working on a broken water main across the street and he wanted to see if it affected our water,” said the elderly woman, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons.
The so-called serviceman was between 25 and 35 years old, wearing black pants and a white shirt.
“He looked pale but well-kept. He was very sweet,” the woman said.
The man asked if he could enter the side yard to check the water main.
“He was running a hose and everything to the side of the house. But I had a funny feeling. It didn’t feel right. So I went back in the house and locked the door. Then I came back out and he left right away,” she said.
At first, the woman said, she didn’t think much of the unexpected interruption because she didn’t see anyone else nearby.
But later that evening she noticed some cash was missing from her wallet. That prompted her to check her jewelry box, and that’s when she realized someone had taken all the gold and diamond jewelry from one of her upstairs bedrooms.
“The other guy came into my house. He probably was upstairs when I was distracted by the guy at the door,” she said.
Authorities say that while residential burglaries seem random, thieves choose their targets carefully and prefer unoccupied homes with easy or concealed access and quick escape routes.
Burglaries that take place while residents are at home are rare, said Detective Steven Colitti of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.
Most burglars don’t want to confront the homeowner. They pick daytime hours, when the residents are most likely to be at school or work, to commit the burglary, Colitti said.
Some thieves pose as door-todoor salespeople. They’ll knock on a front door and if no one answers they’ll go to the backyard and enter the home through an unlocked door or window. But if someone answers, the culprits might say they’re selling a product or service to appear legitimate.
“If someone does knock on the front door, it is a good idea to look through a peephole or an adjacent window to see who is at the door. If you don’t know the person, let them know through the door or window that you are not interested in what they are selling. This lets the person at the front door know there is someone home,” the detective said.
The Agoura victim said she usually uses her front door peephole. “But those guys knew what they were doing and you can’t tell what they want. You just don’t know, and I hate to holler through the door, ‘What do you want?’” said the woman. She wanted to share her story with The Acorn to alert other residents to the scheme.
“People should really know and pay attention,” she said.
Sgt. Vivian May of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station said residents should be alert for anyone in the neighborhood whom they haven’t seen before. If unannounced vendors or workers come to the door, people can ask for identification to verify their credentials.
But recognizing a potential criminal is not always easy, the sergeant said.
“It’s hard because they’re not necessarily going to look like whatever your perception of a criminal is. If they’re professional thieves, they’ll be casing the area, looking around to see who lives where and picking their victims,” May said.
Residents should not hesitate to call the Lost Hills station at (818) 878-1808 if they see someone who appears suspicious.
“This allows our deputies to come out and identify that person,” Colitti said.
Car burglaries are also common in the area. Colitti said people should not keep valuables in their vehicles. Even if it’s an empty backpack, criminals may think there is something in the bag and forcibly enter the vehicle to steal it, he said.