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Saturday, July 12, 2008

'Inspector' scams homeowner, 86

Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.


Blogger Bob said...

Impostor makes off with $150 check signed by woman
By Mara H. Gottfried
Article Launched: 07/11/2008 12:01:00 AM CDT

An 86-year-old woman fell victim to an apparent scam when a man posing as an inspector knocked on the door of her St. Paul home Wednesday, told her he needed to look around and then said she owed him $150.

The woman asked if she could mail a check, but the man said she needed to pay at once, and she did. The man quickly cashed the check.

Although what happened was bad, "it could have been much worse," the woman's daughter said Thursday. She wonders if her mother was targeted because of her age.

"That's what they do — prey on the elderly," said the daughter, who asked that she and her mother not be identified.

The woman said she normally wouldn't have answered the door at her North End home, but when the man knocked on her back door Wednesday morning, he could see her through the window and said "Hi."

The widow, who has lived in her Woodbridge Street house for about 50 years, said she would have felt bad about not answering because he knew she was home.

"She said he was very nice," the woman's daughter said. "That's why she felt comfortable with him."

The man was carrying a file folder, but he didn't give the woman a business card or show identification. He claimed he was there to appraise her house for tax purposes and said he needed to check to make sure it was up to code, the daughter said.

"He looked in all the closets," the woman said, describing how he went room-to-room. "I suppose he thought I had a safe, but I don't."

The woman's home was broken into about 10 years ago, and someone also tried to break in last year, she said.

On Wednesday, after the man insisted she pay him on the spot, the woman starting writing a check, but made a mistake and used white correction fluid, she said. The man said the bank wouldn't accept it, filled a check out himself and had her sign it.

The man said he'd be mailing some paperwork, and the woman gave him her daughter's address, since she handles her affairs.

The woman soon called her daughter and told her to expect some mail. As the woman told her more, the daughter became suspicious.

The daughter called police and the bank to put a stop on the check, though the man had already cashed it, she said.

Police have surveillance video of the man at the bank, according to a police report. No arrests have been made, but police have an idea of who the man is and are investigating, said Peter Panos, St. Paul police spokesman. Police did not release the video or the man's description Thursday.

Panos said he wasn't aware of any recent similar incidents reported in St. Paul.

The man returned to the woman's home Thursday, her daughter said. She didn't let him in, but he handed her paperwork through the window. It appeared to be property tax information about the woman's home, which he had printed from the Internet, the daughter said.

The daughter said she called police to tell them about what she believes to be the man's attempt to appear legitimate.

Although the man didn't specify what agency he was purporting to work for, officials said genuine workers would have acted in a different way.

Inspectors and tax officials show identification, and most won't require payment on the spot.

Some Ramsey County employees make unannounced visits to homes for five-year revaluations, especially at this time of year, or for permit inspections, said County Assessor Stephen Baker. They would ask to look around inside, but people aren't required to let them in, Baker said.

Homeowners can call to make an appointment for an appraiser to come back, or they can decline altogether. The appraisers don't charge money for their visits, Baker said.

It would be rare for St. Paul code inspectors and Minnesota Department of Revenue or Internal Revenue Service employees to go to someone's home without an appointment, though it could happen. For code inspectors, it could be if "there was a very specific public health reason to do so," said Bob Kessler, director of St. Paul's Department of Safety and Inspections.

A St. Paul code inspector would not ask for payment, Kessler said.

An IRS employee might go to someone's home and ask for a payment, but it would be only after the person had received notices from the IRS that they owed money and received a final notice, said Dan Boone, an IRS spokesman.

The daughter of the woman who fell victim in St. Paul said she hopes what happened to her mother can be a lesson to others.

"If someone knocks on your door, don't let them in," the daughter said. "You don't have to be polite, even if they are nice.

Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262.


You can check out whether an employee is legitimate or confirm the reason for a home visit by calling the agency:

Ramsey County appraisers: 651-266-2131

St. Paul code inspectors: 651-266-8989

Minnesota Department of Revenue: 651-296-3781

IRS: 800-829-1040. To report an IRS impersonator, call 800-366-4484.
Police recommend calling them if you suspect something's wrong.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

This elderly woman should count her blessings the intruder wasn't a City of Saint Paul Building Code Inspector.

She could have lost a lot more than a $150..

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets not be so hasty here sounds like a city inspector to me.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people are prodigious with your conspiracy. Give it up and stop defending criminals because it sounds better to blame the 'city'.


12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city is the criminal in a lot of the complaints on this blog Eric. Your wanting to cuddle up to criminal thugs and give us your bullshit spin doesn't change anything just casuse you say so. They're criminals and the evidence show it.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it might have really been Bob Humphrey making a little extra money to finance his upcoming forced retirement.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post at Bob

9:50 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Hi All,

My advice to Saint Paul citizens is, if a code inspector is knocking at your door, exercise your fourth amendment right and refuse entry.

The inspection could cost you up to $75,000 in repairs to your home or the demolition of it.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I glad you are defending the city.
The gestapo code inspectors they have people terrorize and have people afraid to open there door to anyone.
When the code inspectors were in my home and covered the faxed that a contractor did damage to my home, and years later Dean Barkley pointed out sewer gases coming thou the furnace from work done.
Then there were more people then Eric and Chuck, saying there were thing's wrong at 256 W.Morton Street.
Thank you Eric and Chuck for speaking up about my home.
I seen Rick Mons a Democrat from
E Democracy Saturday at a church cook out, I ask him if he was voting for Al Franken.
So I gave him my card,
Elect Bill Dahn U S Senate.
Remember all you Democrats that run St.Paul, Bill Dahn can win this one.
How many of you want Norm Coleman?
How many of you want Al Franken?
Will Jesse run?
I sure hope so, then we can bring out the ---
1998 Minnesota Governor's Race.

7:54 PM  

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