“Bunco Artists” are criminals that often prey on senior citizens because these citizens are trusting, living alone, or have large sums of money available to them. The term Bunko comes from the Spanish word “Banco”, which means bank. Banking scams are just one of many used by these types of individuals. Other scams include, but are not limited to home invasions, burglaries, robberies, thefts, confidence games, door-to-door, solicitors, home companion scams, telemarketing fraud, fraudulent charity scams, home repair frauds, pyramid schemes, health care frauds, identity thefts, staged auto collision and insurance frauds, lottery scams, real estate fraud, and power of attorney abuse.
Many crimes against senior citizens are committed by well organized, transient criminals who evade identification and arrest by operating in various cities and towns under many different aliases. They often leave town before a crime has been discovered or reported.
Criminal organizations that prey on Senior Citizens are usually not physically violent in nature. Unfortunately, there have been cases where physical force has been used to achieve their goals.
When suspects are apprehended, many victims agree to receiving restitution for their loss and the probation of the offender in order to avoid the stress and inconvenience of a criminal trial. In doing so, these criminals have the freedom to travel to other areas to continue their criminal activity.
The Union City Police Department has been very active in the investigation and prosecution of “Bunco Artists” and other such predators. The well being of our citizens is our utmost concern and we do not take these types of offenses lightly. We are working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies such as the N.Y.P.D. and Philadelphia Police Department in an effort to track, apprehend, and prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law.
A TYPICAL SCAM
One or two subjects make contact with a homeowner by ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door. They attempt to distract the homeowner and direct them toward the kitchen with deceptions such as:
- Faking an illness
- Posing as a utility worker or city inspector
- Pretending to have a package to deliver
- Asking for paper or pen to leave a note for a neighbor
- Asking if the house is for sale
- Looking for a lost dog or cat
Once the homeowner is distracted, several unseen accomplices will enter the household and explore the house in search of jewelry or currency. Sometimes suspects may hold up a sheet or blanket to mask the entrance and hide accomplices. There is usually very little sign of ransacking since the actors go through the homeowner’s items very carefully taking only certain valuables and putting everything else back in its place. After the suspects leave, the homeowner may not even realize that anything has been taken.
This is only one example of a typical “Bunco” scam. The Union City Police Department urges all citizens who have been victimized by these types of scams to report it as soon as possible. These criminals rely on the fact that victims do not always report these crimes because they are sometimes ashamed to admit they were conned. DON’T BE! Many people fall victim to these types of crimes. Without your help, many of these con artists get away with their crime and have another chance to defraud other people.
Quick Tips Checklist
- Use caution when dealing with strangers – even those who wear authentic looking uniforms and may have a reason for entering the house.
- Be suspicious of strangers offering to share found money or lottery winnings with you.
- Request and verify identification before letting somebody in your house.
- Check a company’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau, Department of Consumer Affairs, office before conducting business with them.
- Request a written estimate for repair work. Also, get estimates from other companies before making any type of commitment.
- Do not invest hastily. Do not rush into a bargain. If it appears too good to be true, it usually is.
- Ask that you wish to discuss a contract with a lawyer before signing any documents
- When in doubt, call the police!
- If the suspects leave before the police arrive, try to obtain a description of the person or vehicle involved. A license plate number helps the investigation a great deal.
“Bunco” scam artists are persuasive and persistent. They are very well trained in what they do and have managed to take away some people’s entire life savings. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to remain cautious and become educated on how these types of groups operate.
If you believe that you have been a victim of a Bunco type scam, please call the Union City Police department Detective Bureau at (201) 348-5800.