Police across the East Bay are warning about a rash of scams where burglars pose as city workers pretending to be looking for poisonous snakes.
Fremont police say one homeowner was ripped off — and the burglars tried to scam others — by telling residents they worked for the city’s Animal Services Department.
The scammers told residents they had to take measurements of homes as part of the search for snakes that had supposedly gotten loose in the area.
The victimized homeowner told police that a woman knocked the front door around 5 p.m. Saturday, saying that a little girl on the same street had been bitten by a poisonous snake.
When the phony worker told the residents they had to go out to the backyard, an accomplice — posing as the woman’s supervisor — apparently entered the home through the front door and made off with jewelry and cash.
Police did not provide a dollar estimate of how much the thieves got away with.
The homeowner — who has not been identified — didn’t realize until sometime Sunday that the house had been burglarized.
Investigators say earlier in the day Saturday other residents had reported that two women were going door-to-door claiming that they worked for Animal Services and that they were looking for loose rattlesnakes and pythons.
Police say one of the women was wearing a shirt that had what was described as a “very fake” looking Animal Control patch.
Meanwhile, in adjoining Union City, the same scam was used to burglarize a home last week. In that case, a woman knocked on a door of a home pretending to be a city worker and claimed to be looking for a snake infestation.
Once the woman was inside the home, a second person also got inside and stole an undisclosed amount of jewelry and cash.
Union City police warned in a release:
“It is a common scam for criminals to impersonate some type of utility worker, enter into your yard, and distract you, while their accomplice is ransacking your home looking for cash, electronics, and jewelry. These types of crimes have occurred locally when a sliding glass door was left unlocked, most likely due to the warm weather.”
In yet another scam, this one in nearby Hayward, police say a different type of ruse was used last Thursday to dupe an elderly woman out of about $17,000 worth of jewelry and cash.
In that incident, a man knocked on the woman’s door claiming to be a tree trimmer and said he needed to get into the back yard to trim a neighbor’s tree.
While the woman — who lives alone — was walking him to the back of the house a second person went into the home and stole “numerous” items.