PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Mt. Lebanon police are warning that transient, organized criminal groups have been targeting the elderly and committing thefts in the area.

Across Pennsylvania and recently in the Pittsburgh area, a number of thefts have been committed by criminal groups who specifically seek out elderly victims who may be in declining health, have poor vision and are easily confused.

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The criminals frequently work in pairs and use a variety of methods to distract and rob homeowners.

If the victim is working outside of his or her house, one of the suspects will approach the homeowner and talk to them while the other suspect enters the home. They may claim to be construction or utility workers and ask for access to the basement.

If the victim is inside the home, one or both of the criminals will knock on the door and attempt to distract the homeowner or enter the home. Some of the distraction attempts used include: feigning illness and asking for a drink of water, pretending to be delivering a package for a neighbor, asking for paper to leave a note for a neighbor, asking if the house is for sale, looking for a lost dog or cat and asking to use the restroom.

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The thieves have also been known to break into residences if no one is home. Robbed homes are typically left without evidence of being ransacked, and homeowners may not immediately realize that any items have been stolen.

Some of the vehicles typically used by these criminal groups include pickup trucks with tools and equipment or a rug in the bed, construction-type vehicles and rental cars. Cars may also have magnetic advertisement signs, tinted windows, out-of-state registration plates (Texas, Florida and Illinois are common) or magnetic amber warning beacons.

The Mt. Lebanon Police Department encourages residents to be aware and share this information with elderly family members and neighbors. Anyone who encounters anyone suspicious or observes any suspicious activity in or around their home should call 911.

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