PINELLAS (970 WFLA) – Pinellas County detectives are investigating a distraction scheme in which a group of individuals are targeting residents in Pinellas County. Officials say the suspects approach residents in their homes, request access to the backyard and as one person is distracting the homeowner, the other suspects enter the residence and steal their jewelry and cash.
Deputies say five incidents have been reported to PCSO since January 2014 all in south PinellasCounty, south of SR 60.
Deputies say the suspects state they are there to either inspect the sea wall, a water leak, to check property lines or to trim trees in the backyard and identify themselves as city employees or utility workers, while they are distracting the homeowner, two to three other suspects then enter the residence and steal items to include jewelry and cash. The victims were distracted for about 15 to 20 minutes.
The sheriff's office is advising homeowners to carefully scrutinize subjects who approach them offering to perform maintenance related services or inspections to their home and to immediately contact the sheriff's office to report any suspicious activity.
If you are approached at your residence by someone identifying themselves as a city employee or utility worker, officials say to ask for identification or contact their place of employment to verify their identity. Also be sure to lock all doors and windows that are not in view, if you will be outside of your residence.