Reports that a 90-year-old Rock Hill woman was scammed by a man pretending to be a city employee no doubt sent shivers down the backs of many local residents, especially the elderly. But this incident also serves as a reminder to all to be careful about who they invite into their homes.
Fortunately, this incident did not result in any injury to the 90-year-old victim. In fact, it appears nothing was even stolen from her home.
The incident occurred recently when a man knocked on her door, identifying himself as a utility worker there to check her water pressure. She let him in, and he pretended to inspect her kitchen faucet.
He then asked her to accompany him to her garden area, where he asked her a series of questions. City officials speculate that he was distracting her while his partner went through the home looking for valuables.
The man then left and drove off in an unmarked van. We'll call that a happy ending, despite the distress the woman no doubt experienced later.
City officials note that city utility workers drive official vehicles that are white and carry the city logo on the door. Workers often wear badges that include the city logo, and their uniforms or shirts also bear the logo and their names.
But if residents want to make sure about the identity of someone claiming to be a city employee, they can call the city at 329-5500 to confirm his or her identity. And if there is a question about whether people at the door are legitimate, residents are advised not to let them into the house.
Sadly, elderly people may be more susceptible to scams. Con artists prey on the elderly not only through face-to-face home visits but also over the Internet and through phone calls.
More than 6,000 fraud complaints were lodged last year with the S.C. Consumer Affairs Department, and many of the victims were seniors. And those were just the reported cases, with thousands of others going unreported.
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who heads the state Office on Aging, has formed a statewide Task Force on Senior Fraud. The task force coordinates state agencies in an effort to crack down on scams against the elderly.
The task force, which includes law enforcement, has a Web site and hot line available to seniors to report attempts to con them. Seniors also can use the site to learn about the latest scams: www.aging.sc.gov/scams.
We are relieved that the 90-year-old Rock Hill woman was unharmed in this incident. We hope others will learn from what happened and avoid being conned themselves.