Q: I am ashamed to admit I was a victim of a scam. Can you give some hints that will help others spot a con artist?
A: Don’t beat up on yourself for being taken. Anyone can be a victim. A clever con artist is a good actor who disarms the victim with a good-guy approach. Potential victims often share the same characteristics. Many times the victim will be an older woman who is living alone and very trusting. Be careful if that description doesn’t fit you, as anyone can become a victim.
You’ll never detect a con artist by looks. However, words and expressions can reveal his or her true identity. The con artist’s ultimate goal is the victim’s money. The scheme will often require cash only or involve secret plans and get-rich-quick and something-for-nothing promises.
Time is always of the essence. A potential victim will be required to act in haste. “Today only” or “last chance opportunities” are seldom good investments.
Money-saving home improvement projects offered door to door by workers with leftover materials may not be so economical. The materials are often defective or inferior and the workmanship not up to par.
The con artist can dream up more ways of separating cash from a victim then we can comprehend.
If you are a victim, don’t be embarrassed to report it to authorities or testify in court. This is the only way to help stop this kind of crime.
Q: We are constantly being reminded to be aware of our surroundings and know what is going on around us. It is also suggested that if we see suspicious people or activities we should report them. I’m not sure I know what a suspicious person looks like. Do you?
A: There is no particular description of a suspicious person. Generally anyone who seems out of place for an area, time of day or an event could be considered suspicious. His or her presence might indicate present or future criminal activity.
An unknown person seen entering a neighbor’s side or back yard or peering into windows would appear to be out of place.
The occupant of a parked vehicle watching a house or business could be a lookout for criminal activity in progress. Also, vehicles slowly cruising through a neighborhood could be casing the area for future burglaries.
A door-to-door solicitor might be someone attempting to see if the residents are at home. While we have always been told to ignore such knocks on the door, we are now being advised to ask, always through a locked door, who is it and what they want. An unanswered knock could result in an attempted break-in.
Abandoned vehicles might have been stolen, while those parked in remote areas could be connected to drug or alcohol use.
A person switching vehicles, especially in a public place, might be dumping a stolen vehicle or one used while committing a crime. Although some suspicious situations could result in innocent explanations you should still report what you think might be criminal activity.
If you hear unusual noises such as gunshots, screaming or fighting, report the disturbance immediately.
When you report suspicious activity do your best to describe what happened, where and when it happened and if anyone was injured.
If a vehicle is involved a description of the vehicle and, if possible, the license number should be included. It is also helpful to report how many people were in the vehicle and if they were male or female. If you saw the vehicle leave the scene noting the direction of travel would be helpful.
When reporting a suspicious person describe the clothing worn and any unusual characteristics such as glasses, beard, jewelry, scars or tattoos. Again, if the person has left the scene, report the direction of travel and mode of transportation if you have that information.
Quick reporting often helps save a life or deter a crime.
June 17: “The Four Federal Government Programs You Should Understand” seminar, 1:30-3 p.m. at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive in Westlake Village. For information call the Advocate’s office at 495-6250.
June 23: The Empowered Caregiver Series presentation “Neuropsychological Testing and Usefulness for the Caregiver,” 5:30-7 p.m. at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations call 497-0189.
June 28: Music Comes Alive presentation “Keeping the Memory of Elvis Alive with a truly Rock & Roll Concert,” 2 p.m. at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. $5 admission. Tickets available at Goebel front desk.