Web Extra!
Police are warning people to be careful and use their common sense after two women were taken for thousands of dollars in two separate street scam operations last week.

An elderly Austin resident is out “several thousand dollars” after falling for a variation on the classic pigeon drop game. The woman was approached by a man described as black, 6-feet-2 and thin, and in his 30s, as she left the post office on Laramie near Jackson Boulevard the morning of Sept. 6.

The man, whom the woman said affected an “African accent,” and who was dressed “Amish style,” told her he was from Africa, and showed her three stacks of what he said were $50,000 each. He said he could not take the currency back with him to Africa. The man showed the woman what appeared to be a stack of currency and said he wanted to give the money to charity.  He asked for the woman’s help, as well as good will money.

About that time, another woman described as light-skinned black and 5-feet-5, walked up and announced that she too wanted to help. The three drove in the elderly woman’s car to the US Bank at Laramie and Madison, where the second woman supposedly withdrew a sum of cash to give to the man. The three then drove to the elderly woman’s bank, Chase Bank, 1048 Lake St., in Oak Park. There the woman withdrew the money and gave it to the man, who appeared to wrap the cash in a cloth and tie it with string. He then placed the supposed cash in the trunk of the woman’s car, and he and the other woman walked away north on Marion Street. The bundled cash turned out to be newspaper.

“She felt something was wrong, but she went along with it anyway,” said Oak Park Deputy Chief Bob Scianna.

Another type of scam victimized an elderly North Side Chicago woman a week earlier on Aug. 30. The woman was approached near Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue by two Hispanic women in their 30s, one of whom appeared to be pregnant.

The pregnant woman told the elderly woman she had a winning lottery ticket and that she would give her $50,000 if she assisted them in cashing the ticket. The elderly woman drove in the other woman’s car to her bank on the North Side, where she withdrew a large, five-figure sum of cash. The two women simply drove off after the woman handed them her money.

“These scams have been going on for years, and it’s not always the elderly who are victims,” said Scianna. “There’s been some younger people who’ve been taken.”

In fact, a middle aged Berwyn woman got taken for a similar amountas the Austin woman by two women executing a version of the same scam last February on Madison Street in Oak Park. 

Scianna said people should never talk with strangers under any circumstances regarding personal issues or finances. Ever.

He added that handing cash over to strangers wasn’t the only mistake the two women made, saying, “You should never let strangers into your car,” or get into a strangers car. Common sense, Scianna said, is your best protection.

“[This] happens when people put aside their good sense for the chance of a quick profit. Rule of thumb, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.”