“Bunco Artists” are criminals that often prey on senior citizens because these citizens
are trusting, living alone, or have large sums of money available to them. The term
Bunko comes from the Spanish word “Banco”, which means bank. Banking scams are just
one of many used by these types of individuals. Other scams include, but are not
limited to home invasions, burglaries, robberies, thefts, confidence games, door-to-door,
solicitors, home companion scams, telemarketing fraud, fraudulent charity scams,
home repair frauds, pyramid schemes, health care frauds, identity thefts, staged
auto collision and insurance frauds, lottery scams, real estate fraud, and power
of attorney abuse.
Many crimes against senior citizens are committed by well organized, transient criminals
who evade identification and arrest by operating in various cities and towns under
many different aliases. They often leave town before a crime has been discovered
Criminal organizations that prey on Senior Citizens are usually not physically violent
in nature. Unfortunately, there have been cases where physical force has been used
to achieve their goals.
When suspects are apprehended, many victims agree to receiving restitution for their
loss and the probation of the offender in order to avoid the stress and inconvenience
of a criminal trial. In doing so, these criminals have the freedom to travel to
other areas to continue their criminal activity.
The North Bergen Police Department has been very active in the investigation and
prosecution of “Bunco Artists” and other such predators. The well being of our citizens
is our utmost concern and we do not take these types of offenses lightly. We are
working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies such as the N.Y.P.D. and Philadelphia
Police Department in an effort to track, apprehend, and prosecute these individuals
to the fullest extent of the law.
A TYPICAL SCAM
One or two subjects make contact with a homeowner by ringing the doorbell or knocking
on the door. They attempt to distract the homeowner and direct them toward the kitchen
with deceptions such as:
- Faking an illness
- Posing as a utility worker or township inspector
- Pretending to have a package to deliver
- Asking for paper or pen to leave a note for a neighbor
- Asking if the house is for sale
- Looking for a lost dog or cat
Once the homeowner is distracted, several unseen accomplices will enter the household
and explore the house in search of jewelry or currency. Sometimes suspects may hold
up a sheet or blanket to mask the entrance and hide accomplices. There is usually
very little sign of ransacking since the actors go through the homeowner’s items
very carefully taking only certain valuables and putting everything else back in
its place. After the suspects leave, the homeowner may not even realize that anything
has been taken.
This is only one example of a typical “Bunco” scam. The North Bergen Police Department
urges all citizens who have been victimized by these types of scams to report it
as soon as possible. These criminals rely on the fact that victims do not always
report these crimes because they are sometimes ashamed to admit they were conned.
DON’T BE! Many people fall victim to these types of crimes. Without your help, many
of these con artists get away with their crime and have another chance to defraud
Quick Tips Checklist
- Use caution when dealing with strangers – even those who wear authentic looking
uniforms and may have a reason for entering the house.
- Be suspicious of strangers offering to share found money or lottery winnings with
- Request and verify identification before letting somebody in your house.
- Check a company’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau, Department of Consumer
Affairs, or the township’s business office before conducting business with them.
- Request a written estimate for repair work. Also, get estimates from other companies
before making any type of commitment.
- Do not invest hastily. Do not rush into a bargain. If it appears too good to be
true, it usually is.
- Ask that you wish to discuss a contract with a lawyer before signing any documents
- When in doubt, call the police!
- If the suspects leave before the police arrive, try to obtain a description of the
person or vehicle involved. A license plate number helps the investigation a great
- “Bunco” scam artists are persuasive and persistent. They are very well trained in
what they do and have managed to take away some people’s entire life savings. The
best way to avoid becoming a victim is to remain cautious and become educated on
how these types of groups operate.
If you believe that you have been a victim of a Bunco type scam, please call the
North Bergen Police department Detective Bureau at (201) 392-2095.