‘Snake scammers’ strike in San Mateo

Police are warning that scammers ripping off homes in the East Bay by knocking on doors claiming to be city workers looking for poisonous snakes are now working both sides of The Bay.

San Mateo police say a woman claiming to be a city employee working for what she termed “pest abatement” knocked on a door of a home a little before 5 p.m. Tuesday and said because of an “outbreak of snakes” in the area she needed to check the inside of the home.

The resident of the home let the so-called city worker in, but when she asked for everyone to step outside so she could supposedly set snake traps, the resident had the person leave and called police.

In that case, nothing appears to have been taken from the home.

But last week the same ruse was used to rip off a homeowner in Fremont, another homeowner in adjoining Union City and a third case has been reported in Hayward.

San Mateo police Sgt. Dave Norris told SFBay investigators say the cases appear to be connected:

“We believe the cases are related.  The descriptions of the suspects are very, very similar.”

In issuing what they’re terming a “Bay Area Wide Crime Trend Alert,”  police warned:

“A recent San Mateo burglary follows a criminal trend that has been seen regularly, and most recently in the East Bay. … The contact suspect distracts the victim through conversation or through a demonstration of their ‘services.’ During this time, a second suspect enters other areas of the victim’s home and searches for and takes valuables.”

Though the San Mateo homeowner avoided being victimized by telling the bogus city worker to get out of the house, victims in Fremont, Union City and Hayward had items stolen from their home when they went outside so their yards could supposedly be measured for snake traps.

San Mateo police are working with their counterparts in the three East Bay cities to try catch the scammers.