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How criminals exploit our trust

March 28, 2010

If the only thing you know about criminal behavior comes from the television show Cops, you could easily underestimate the criminal mind.

Among the many low-level thugs featured on television are scores of others who rely on deceptiveness and devious planning to take advantage of your trust.

Three cases last week highlight the creativity of the criminal mind.

1) Minnesota man poses as police officer to commit sexual assault.

Police reported that the man was in a Target store watching two teenage girls. When one of the girls allegedly opened a mascara package and removed one of two tubes, he followed the girls until they left the store.

Once outside, he identified himself as a police officer, showed the girls the open package and accused them of shoplifting. The girls handed over the tube of mascara.

He then told one of the girls to sit on a bench and took the other around the back of the store to search her, where he committed the sexual assault.

2) Two men pose as law enforcement to gain entry into home.

The second case comes out of California, where both perpetrators wore tactical vests as disguises. One vest was printed with the word “Sheriff” and the other with the words “U.S. Marshall.”

The men forced the home occupants to the ground and handcuffed them before ransacking the home and stealing valuables.

3) Men identify as plumbers to scope robbery targets

The third case is a robbery ploy in Michigan by two men who identify themselves as plumbers. They drive a long white van with PVC pipe (plumbing pipe) attached to the roof.

The criminals knock on doors and identify themselves as plumbers. When one homeowner answered the door and said he didn’t call a plumber, the man simply said he had the wrong address.

But a half hour later the man was found digging around inside a house when he thought nobody was home. To his surprise, a teenage boy was home, and when the teen confronted the “plumber,” he ran from the house.

Lesson: Things aren’t always as they appear.

Most of us have a natural instinct to trust people in uniform. Somewhere in the back of our minds we think criminals will look like criminals, and bad guys will look like bad guys. When our guard comes down, so does our ability to defend ourselves.

Remember, things aren’t always as they appear. Personal protection and self defense require a measure of intuition. If you sense something is fishy, go with your gut and take every precaution.

Sexual assault reported by The Northwestern.com.

Law enforcement scam reported by ABC News 10.

Plumber ploy reported by Detroit Free Press.

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