Criminals Targeting Real Estate Rehabbers
As the economy worsens I am seeing more and more violent crimes against real estate rehabbers. These robberies are focused on rehab crews and often take place on Friday afternoons, or just after the workers are paid. These workers, sometimes illegal aliens, are sometimes paid in cash because of their not wanting to report their earnings for income tax purposes, or because they don’t have checking accounts.
Recently a local real estate investor was targeted by two hoodlums who were between 18 and 21 years old. He and his two workers had their money, wallets, cell phones, car keys and the investor’s garage door opener stolen at gunpoint. Besides the obvious threat to their lives, the implications are far reaching –
1. Their wallets contained their driver’s licenses which can be used for identify fraud and their home addresses. If the thieves sell the car keys, garage door openers to other thieves, these guys can come by at night and just drive the car away or open the garage door and come into their homes.
2. The credit cards in their wallets will be used if they aren’t stopped immediately and despite only a $50 risk to the cardholder, it sometimes takes time and effort to get the charges removed and their credit cleared.
3. Their cell phones can be used for long distance calls and most importantly, if the numbers in memory are coded as My Love or Honey these guys have been sending text messages asking for PIN numbers.
Not since the 1980’s have we had to carry what I call a throw-away wallet and my wife carried a cheap purse without anything in it other than some old cancelled store cards and no ID what-so-ever. We usually stuffed the wallet with 20 one dollar bills and would readily give up our fake car keys and wallet and her purse if asked. Of course with all this planning, we never got robbed.
Here are a few simple precautions that will help substantially reduce or eliminate this potential problem:
1. Keep the front door of your property closed and locked when you are inside and lock the door if you go outside.
2. Expect the unexpected in terms of what might happen if someone asks for your wallet or purse.
3. If you are going to carry a concealed weapon, get a license. It is more likely that it will be used against you than your using it against a robber – so be very careful.
4. Be alert to what is going on around you and don’t open your house’s door unless you see the people on the other side of the door (the robbers mentioned above wore skully caps)
5. Either have your cell phone hidden or take a throw-away with you.
6. Have your car keys hidden and do not have your garage door opener in an obvious place.
This article is not meant to scare anyone but only to make you more alert to a potential situation that has already happened to too many investors who never expected it. Don’t let crooks like these rule your life, just be careful and aware of what’s happening around you.