Last week, the flim-flam scam made its way to Weehawken, where a Hudson Avenue resident was robbed by two men pretending to be plumbing repairmen.
Posing as repairmen
According to Weehawken Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Fulcher, the robbery took place on Feb. 2 at approximately 7:50 p.m., when the two men knocked at the front door of the Hudson Ave. residence and told the elderly female resident that they represented the landlord who requested work on the apartment's plumbing.
"They distracted the victim for a minute," Fulcher said. "While one of them allegedly checked the pipes in the kitchen and the woman standing there, the other actor apparently went through the woman's purse. After the men left, the woman called the landlord, who said that she didn't authorize any work to take place in the apartment.
"The woman did notice that $240 in cash was taken," Fulcher said.
Fulcher said that the victim did get a good description of the two thieves.
"She said that both were white males over 6 feet tall," Fulcher said. "They both had very large builds and were wearing white jackets. She said that they were dressed like repairmen. She's an elderly resident. We're glad she called us. Most people get embarrassed when they are scammed like that and don't want to report flim-flams. But she called us right away."
Fulcher said that the Weehawken police department wanted residents to be aware of such schemes.
"We want to alert the community and tell them of the general precautions they should take," Fulcher said. "If someone is representing a utility company or a contractor, they should present identification first. People shouldn't be afraid to ask for an ID. A genuine employee would be glad to share the ID. They should also be wearing a proper uniform."
Don't answer the door!
Fulcher also offered one sound piece of advice.
"If you're not sure of who's at the door, then don't answer it," Fulcher said. "Call the police. Don't open the door unless you're 100 percent sure who's there and who you're dealing with."
Fulcher said that this robbery should have sent a warning sign to the resident because it happened at night.
"It was an unusual time of day for a repair," Fulcher said. "Unless you call for an emergency repair, then repairmen don't usually come at that time of day. Regular repairs are not conducted at night, only emergency calls. In this case, the woman didn't make the call at all. Unless you know you made the call, then don't answer the door for a repairman."
Just a phone call away
Fulcher said that aggressive attitude is a key in preventing such crimes.
"Don't be shy about talking through the door," Fulcher said. "It's safer than opening the door to someone you don't know. And if you're not sure who it is, always call the police. This way you can dispel any uncertainty. It's better to be safe than sorry. In fact, we encourage the residents to call the police. That's what we're here for. You're not wasting our time and you shouldn't feel that way. We want to prevent any more incidents like this happening in Weehawken. We know that there have been similar incidents taking place in Bergen County and Passaic County. We want them to stop here."
Fulcher said that if you see or hear of someone acting in a suspicious manner, especially with the false pretenses of being repair people, call the Weehawken police at (201) 863-7800.