Police warn residents of scam risk in southwest Columbia

Sunday, March 28, 2010 | 6:45 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA ­– The Columbia Police Department released a scam alert after three reports of suspicious activity in southwest Columbia.

On Jan. 16, a couple opened their front door to a stranger who claimed he was looking for someone. The man wanted to search the residence, but the couple refused, and he eventually left in a gray Ford Taurus, according to the alert.

On Friday, the man returned to the residence, this time claiming to be with the Missouri Department of Social Services. He told the couple he was investigating a complaint and needed to check them both for bruises, according to the alert. The couple again refused to let him in.

Later that day, a similar incident occurred nearby, according to the alert. A woman reported two visits from a man claiming to be with the military. On the first visit, she opened the door, and he asked her for personal information. The man wore sunglasses during the entire exchange. When he came back later, she did not answer the door.

The vehicle driven on Friday has been described by one resident as a “light-colored, older model Chrysler” and as a “cream-colored car” by the other, Sergeant Candy Cornman said. The police believe it to be the same car.

Residents at both houses described the suspect as a black male in his late 20s to early 30s, about 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. On the days of the incidents, he was clean-shaven, dressed in business clothes and had short hair. At both incidents in March, residents said he had a gold tooth, Cornman said.

Both incidents occurred at homes owned by elderly residents, Cornman said.

The police have not yet been able to determine the intent of this scam, she said.

Columbia police advise residents to refuse entry and call 911 if a man fitting this description shows up on their doorstep.

“We hope that by releasing information about this, more individuals will be encouraged to come forward and call the police if something like this happens to them,” Cornman said. “If this happens to somebody else and they report it, that gives us additional descriptions that we can use to narrow down possible suspects.”

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