Gardai warn about 'highly plausible conman' pretending to be detective
Gardaí have issued a warning to the public about a "highly plausible conman" who is calling to elderly people living on their own and pretending to be a plainclothes detective.
The man is then stealing sums of cash now estimated to amount to several thousand euro and is understood to be operating in the north county Cork towns of Newmarket and Mitchelstown.
Gardaí have begun investigations after two elderly people had money stolen in similar circumstances by a man posing as a garda detective checking on their personal security and any cash they may have with them.
According to garda sources, the man, described as being in his late 30s/early 40s and being between 5'9'' and 5'11'' and of stocky build, usually introduces himself to the pensioner as a detective and presents a fake business card with a garda logo.
The conman then says he wants to check on their personal security and then inquires about whether they have personal panic buttons and burglar alarms.
He then asks if they keep any money in the house or on their person, said a garda source.
The conman then asks to see the money, either saying that he wants to check that it isn't counterfeit or that he wants to mark it in case it is stolen. He says that he has a machine in his car to do so, whereupon he takes the money from the pensioner, goes to his car and drives off with the cash.
Gardai believe the conman was also behind a theft in Newmarket on January 19 when a man presented himself as a garda to a pensioner in a supermarket car park and asked to see if he had any cash.
In this case, also, the man said he wanted to mark it with a machine he had in his car in case it was stolen.
The conman drove off with several hundred euros in cash on that occasion.
Gardaí have now appealed to the public for their assistance in tracing the conman, who was driving what is believed to be a black Volvo S40.
Gardai believe the same man struck on February 3 in Mitchelstown, calling to the home of an elderly man outside the town and again presenting his fake garda business card and making off with several hundreds of euros in cash on the pretence of taking it to his car to mark it in the event of theft.
Gardai also believe the same man was behind a similar type scam in Rushbrooke in Cobh on January 24 when a man presented a fake Garda ID, claimed to be a detective from Cork city and stole several hundred euro from a pensioner.
They also believe the same man was behind another theft in a rural area near Youghal on February 7, where he presented as an Eir employee and said he had found two €10 notes outside and asked a pensioner to check his wallet, and he again made off with several hundreds of euros in cash.
A man also posing as an Eir employee stole cash from an elderly man in Ballylickey near Bantry on February 8 and from another elderly man in Skibbereen on February 9.
Gardai are trying to establish if it might be the same culprit as his modus operandi is very similar.
"This man is highly plausible - he dresses well and is very calm and patient with his victims," said a garda spokesman.
"It's obviously hugely distressing for them but the one thing we can say is that he is never violent and never uses the threat of violence.
"Obviously we would urge people living on their own to be very vigilant and we would ask their neighbours to be vigilant, and not to admit anyone to their house until they are satisfied that they are who they say they are, and to report any suspicious activity to their local garda station."