Hancock Co. Sheriff's Dept. proactive against scams

We tell you here on KHQA about scams moving through the area, and a big one is always asphalt scams.

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department has taken a pro-active approach to stopping and catching these criminals.

In this KHQA Safe Family Report Jarod Wells found out more about the newest scam, what is being done to stop it and how you can avoid falling prey to it.

Hancock County Sheriff John Jefferson said, "Every year the citizens of our county fall victim to asphalt scammers and rip our citizens off of thousands of dollars each year."

The equipment seized by the sheriff's department has been used to scam a total of $10,000 off two Hancock County households this year.

Jefferson said, "This year we decided to get very proactive in this to put a stop to it. With the assistance of our state's attorney, we decided to, when we pursue these guys, to seize their equipment and put a stop to these guys coming in and ripping off our citizens."

Sheriff John Jefferson says there are two crews the department knows about that are running this scam. Here's how the scam works. They solicit door to door and do not present a written contract, they verbally describe the job they will do, which turns out to be completely different than what they actually do. Instead of asphalt they lay down a thin coat of oil, they then cover it with pea gravel and roll it, take their check and leave. And as usual, the scammers target the elderly.

Jefferson said, "They look for houses that don't have swing sets, no bicycles in the yard, no toys in the yard and that's the houses they pick out."

Since the victims are over the age of 60 and the dollar amount stolen is so large, these crimes are aggravated home repair fraud cases, a class three felony.

Jefferson said, "Right now some of the owner/operators of the equipment have been calling us, wanting their equipment back. We're more than happy to interview them and talk to them, we've asked them to come over to our sheriff's office and talk to us about this case. We've been trying to get this resolved, but as of yet they've refused to come back to Illinois to talk to us."

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department knows the scammers are out of Missouri. A joint investigation is on going with Hancock County, McDonough County and Christian County in Illinois and Marion County in Missouri.

Jefferson said, "we really encourage people, when someone comes to your door soliciting for business, please check them out. Get a second opinion once you get a price from this person. Call up a reputable guy that you know in the area, that lives in the area. And ask him what would be a reasonable price to have the same project done for you."

Jefferson says never give out your bank account information or a blank check. And never pre pay for a job, which one of the recent victims did.

If the equipment seized by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department is not claimed soon, it will be permanently seized by the county.

Sheriff John Jefferson says it may be sold to repay victims of these scams.

Jarod was told the department hopes to have warrants for the men sometime next week.