Caution urged after suspicious home visit

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 16, 2007

Local law enforcement and caretakers of the elderly are askingarea senior citizens to please remember to lock doors and observecommon safety precautions after a local woman was victimized by awoman posing as a home health worker recently.

Sta-Home Health employee Faye Dunnaway said a lady recentlyinquired about a possible agency employee.

“A lady came in the other day and asked if we had a physicaltherapist by a certain name, and it turns out this person had gonein her house,” Dunnaway said. “The lady happened to come out of thebedroom and the girl is standing there and said, ‘I’m your physicaltherapist.'”

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Dunnaway said the woman had asked for the “physical therapist’s”employer, and the woman had said she worked for King’s DaughtersMedical Center, which does not have a home health program.

The elderly woman, who had just been discharged from physicaltherapy that day, told the girl that she did not have a therapist,Dunnaway said, and the intruder offered to go get her papers. Whenshe did, she left the premises.

“When the girl left, the lady found that someone had stolen hercredit cards and things out of her wallet,” said Dunnaway.”Evidently they went to Wal-Mart and tried to buy about $2,000worth of stuff.”

Dunnaway said Sta-Home Health officials are concerned that otherpeople could fall victim to the same scheme because they don’t knowany better.

“She had sense enough to know she didn’t have anyone with thatcompany,” Dunnaway said. “She knew someone here so she came andasked if the girl were with us. It upsets us because it gives homehealth agencies a bad name.”

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said while that incidentis the only one like it that has been reported so far, it’simportant not only for senior citizens, but for any citizen to knowto listen to their instincts when something seems amiss.

“If any stranger comes into your house especially, but also ifyou don’t feel comfortable when something seems wrong, call thepolice department or the sheriff’s department,” he said. “Sometimeswe allow people to tell us we can get something for nothing, andwhen that happens, contact your local law enforcement to see ifthose things are true.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said some precautions mayseem frivolous, but can be the difference in avoiding being thevictim of a crime.

“It’s not a bad idea to get someone to make sure you haveadequate door locks, and to use them at night and when you’re awayfrom home,” said Rushing, adding that it’s also smart to lock yourdoors and windows when you’re home alone. “We have a good, safecounty and community, but there’s always going to be random crime.You’d rather be prepared against it.”

Rushing encouraged the elderly of the county to get involvedwith Neighborhood Watch or the TRIAD programs, which are sponsoredby the Brookhaven Police Department, the Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment and the AARP. He said programs such as R.U.O.K., whichcalls registered seniors at a specific time every day to make surethey are able to answer their phones, can make a difference in apotential crime situation simply because someone checks on themevery day.

“TRIAD provides some excellent programs,” he said. “We’re alwayslooking for more people to get involved with it, and we’reconstantly looking for other programs we can add to keep ourcommunity safe for not just our senior citizens, but all ourcitizens.”