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posted: 2/26/2010 12:01 AM

Fashion show designed to stop scams against seniors

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  • Above are some of the models involved in an upcoming fashion show to help seniors understand who's knocking on their door and how to identify them by their uniforms.

      Above are some of the models involved in an upcoming fashion show to help seniors understand who's knocking on their door and how to identify them by their uniforms.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer


Local cops, hot or not?

A gaggle of local seniors will soon have an opportunity to judge officers and other uniformed employees for themselves during a runway fashion show called "Who's really knocking at your door."

In addition to an officer from the Elgin and South Elgin departments, a representative from Nicor, the United States Postal Service, Comcast, ComEd, Elgin code enforcement and water departments, AT&T, Comcast, FedEx and the US Census Bureau will also model their uniforms on the catwalk.

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez and Elgin Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Swoboda will host the show that's scheduled for Thursday, March 4 at the Centre of Elgin and will be set to music.

As well, Joe Rosner, director of Best Defense of Illinois, will discuss how to recognize and avoid dangerous people and situations and how to get help.

The goal is to educate seniors about who's coming to their door and how to identify them by uniform, so they don't unwittingly open their doors to strangers, said Cherie Aschenbrenner, an Elgin crime prevention specialist and elderly services officer.

She is president of the Elgin Township Triad that is organizing the show - it is a group focused on area seniors.

The show, which 200 people have registered for, is in response to a very serious local issue - criminals ripping off and scamming seniors by posing as people trying to help them.

"Lately ... it seems to be an unfortunate trend around the country where people are becoming victims because unscrupulous people are presenting themselves as fraudulent individuals," said Sgt. Randy Endean of the South Elgin Police Department, also a member of the Elgin Township Triad.

There has been an uptick in criminals posing as Elgin water department employees or delivery people to gain entry to a house - usually, two or more people knock on a senior's door, with one person remaining at the door to distract the senior, while the others rummage through the house and steal valuables, Aschenbrenner said.

On Feb 2, at 10:11 a.m., someone posing as a delivery man knocked on a door in the 1200 block of Dakota Drive in Elgin.

A 90-year-old man opened the door, after he saw the man holding a package.

The man then dropped the package, punched the elderly gentleman and knocked him to the ground.

Then he stole the man's wallet, and fled the scene.

Criminals sometimes prey on older people because they are more likely to be home during the day, less likely to report the crime, as they don't want people to question their independence and are a lot more prone to trusting people, Aschenbrenner said.

"They come from that era where they trust people and you could have a deal on a handshake," she said.

Elgin resident Olean Singleton, 77, said she read about the incident involving the 90-year-old, is aware of several other incidents in town and as a general rule, doesn't open her door to anyone she doesn't know.

Yet Singleton said the fashion show is a fun way to teach a serious lesson and that she's doing her part to spread the word to her friends.

"We have so many seniors who just forget and open the door to the wrong people," she said. "And with this, they'll know who is who."

If you go

What: "Who's really knocking on your door," a fashion show and safety seminar designed to help seniors identify people who should be coming to their doors so that they don't get scammed. Refreshments will be served.

When: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 4

Where: Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way, inside the heritage ballroom

Admission: Free. But unless you are a caretaker, you must be 55 or older to attend.

Details and registration: Call Belinda at the Elgin Township office at (847) 741-2045.

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