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UPDATE: Police warn residents of scam risk in southwest Columbia

Monday, March 29, 2010 | 1:39 p.m. CDT; updated 8:33 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 29, 2010

COLUMBIA ­– Columbia Police have added new information and a fifth incident to a scam alert released over the weekend. As previously reported by the Missourian, the alert was issued after reports of suspicious activity in southwest Columbia.

On Jan. 16, a couple living on West Broadway opened their front door to a stranger who said he was looking for someone. The man wanted to search the residence, but the couple refused, and the man left in a gray Ford Taurus, according to a release from the police department.

Police said the man returned to the West Broadway residence on Friday, 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.

In late February, a similar incident occurred on Cypress Lane, according to the release. A woman said a man claiming to be with the military came to her home and asked her for personal information. The man wore sunglasses during the entire exchange.

The woman reported the February incident on Friday, after the man visited her home a second time. She did not open the door for him, and this time decided to call the police, Columbia Police Department Public Information Officer Jessie Haden said.

On March 12, at about 4 p.m., a stranger presenting himself as an IRS employee knocked on the door of a Jake Lane home. He told the resident, a 92-year-old man, that he was investigating a counterfeit scam and needed to inspect the money from the resident's wallet. When the resident agreed, the man took the money and left in a white passenger car, according to the release.

The vehicle driven by the perpetrator on Friday has been described by one resident as a “light-colored, older model Chrysler” and as a “cream-colored car” by the other, according to the release. The police believe it to be the same car. Haden said it might be the same vehicle involved in the March 12 incident, but it is too soon to make a concrete connection.

The police have not yet been able to determine the intent of the scams, and police believe the perpetrator in all five incidents is the same person.

Residents at all houses described the perpetrator as a 6-foot tall black male. Two of the reports describe him as being in his late 20s to early 30s and about 200 pounds; the third said he had a muscular build. On the days of the incidents, he was clean-shaven, dressed in business clothes and had short hair. The woman living on Cypress Lane noted a gold tooth, Haden said.

All incidents occurred at homes owned by senior citizens, Haden said.

The man could be a con artist, or could be gathering information for a future burglary, Haden said.

Columbia police advise residents to refuse entry and call the police department, 874-7652, or Crime Stoppers, 875-TIPS, if a man fitting this description shows up on their doorstep.


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