In hindsight, the victim says, the scam was the perfect storm.
His south Wichita house had been for sale for about a month, and there had been no bites from potential buyers. Then, on Oct. 3, while he was away from home, his real estate agent got a call from another man who identified himself as an agent for a couple who saw the house and were interested. The caller used an agent’s name that was familiar and wanted to know if the couple could see the home that day. The caller used real estate lingo. So the seller’s agent gave the man the combination to the lock box outside the home.
“We fell, hook, line and sinker,” said the homeowner, who asked that his name and street not be disclosed for security reasons.
It turned out that the “agent” and the couple were thieves conning their way into the house.
By coincidence, the seller’s exterminator showed up around the same time. The scammers even asked the exterminator what he was spraying for. Termites?
The scamming agent was well-dressed. He and his “buyers” came in a small blue car. Maybe that’s why they stole smaller items, including jewelry, handguns, electronics, tax returns, a jar of change and family mementoes going back generations. The seller estimated the loss at $3,000 to $5,000 but said it’s difficult to put an accurate value on many of the items, especially the mementoes with sentimental value.
He said his agent felt awful for giving out the combination and not following established procedure to confirm the caller’s identity.
His agent paid for new locks on the house.
Wichita police Lt. Joe Cutcliff, head of the burglary unit, said he knows of no other recent scams like the one at the south Wichita house.
“It’s a new twist for the burglary section,” Cutcliff said.
The investigation is continuing.
“We’re still chasing it,” Cutcliff said, asking that anyone who might have information about the crime call burglary investigators at 316-268-4141 or Crime Stoppers, 316-267-2111.
The Wichita Area Association of Realtors quickly alerted members about the scam, said the group’s CEO, Tessa Hultz. The alert noted that if anyone says he is an agent and asks for a lock-box combination, it can’t be given until the person provides a “unique identifier” posted on a secure site.