Crooks Using West Nile Scare To Rip People Off

LAKEWOOD, Ohio – Not only do you have to look out for mosquitoes because of the recent West Nile virus scare, but you have to watch out for crooks too. Some thieves are tapping into the fear created by the deadly virus to rip people off. One local family was hit for nearly $6,000, Action News' Paul Orlousky reported.

It happened at least two times, along some of the busiest streets in Lakewood. Crooks lured senior citizens out of their homes by saying that they had sprayed to kill mosquitoes. While the homeowner was outside, a second guy stole whatever he could from inside the home.

Nancy Roth didn't think it was odd when a man came to her door and told her that he was spraying nearby for to fight the spread of West Nile virus, and that some of the spray got into her backyard.

She went around back with him, but the scheme was interrupted.

"Thank God my granddaughter came in and saw another gentleman standing here in the house," Roth said.

The men fled and Roth was not hurt, but in a neighborhood where people chat over front porch railings rather than by cell phones, it's disturbing.

"Just don't be so trusting," victim Anna Wagner said. "I never thought I'd get fooled like that."

Wagner's family wasn't as lucky as Roth.

The scam was the same -- a man said that he had been spraying for rats at a neighbor's place and took Wagner back to show her. While Wagner was in the backyard with the man, a second man entered her home through an open door. He moved quickly and quietly through the home. So quietly, in fact, that Wagner's husband who was inside didn't hear a thing.

"They planned it," Wagner said. "They knew about that place back there. They knew that was the only way they'd get me out there."

Moving through the house, the crooks found grocery money, a tax refund and a family nest egg. They got away with more than $5,000.

Police said all that they know is that the men were driving a red pickup truck and had a Mediterranean complexion.

Authorities warned that now is a good time to be on guard and to warn senior citizens to be too trusting.