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Residents on edge after likely gypsy scam incident

Incident in Royal Canyon neighborhood was likely the makings a gypsy scam, police officials say.

August 08, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

An unidentified woman who approached a group of children playing Sunday in the front yard of a house near Verdugo Park and started soliciting information before being run off was likely part of a gypsy scam, police say.

At about 4:30 p.m., four people, including two teenage girls and two adults, got out of a minivan and positioned themselves along his cul-de-sac in the Royal Canyon neighborhood, said resident Greg Andrews. The driver, a woman in her mid-50s, then parked opposite traffic in front of his house.

She approached the children, and began asking them questions about the house and the neighborhood in a mix of English and a second language he could not identify, Andrews said.

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He quickly moved in between the children and the woman, who slipped into small talk, asking if his house was a rental and whether there was any water.

“It appeared to me to be just made-up conversation,” Andrews said. “What bothered me the most, aside from the children being directly approached, was the fact all the parties covered the perimeter of the home and street.”

The woman and her companions then got back into their van and left, Andrews. He contacted Glendale Police, but they were unable to locate the vehicle.

The incident had all the characteristics of a gypsy scam, Sgt. Tom Lorenz said. They typically operate as a family, sending women to make the initial contact so as not to seem threatening to their potential victims.

“What they will do is they will drive outside of their state to states like California, go into residential areas, usually upscale neighborhoods,” Lorenz said. “They look for the elderly, they look for people with money.”

Among the most common scams are offers to do housework, such as painting, roofing and driveways, Lorenz said. The scammers ask for a partial cash payment upfront, and then make off with the money.

“Solicitors are annoying at the door, and you might want to slam the door in their face,” Lorenz said. “But if they don’t have a permit from the city of Glendale, [residents] need to call the police department.”

They approach neighborhood children because children are more likely to give up information that they shouldn’t, Lorenz said.

“They come in, they hit an area, and before you know it, they are gone to Northern California,” Lorenz said. “For local law enforcement to track these people down is next to impossible.”


 
 

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