The Palos Hills Police Department has a message it wants to get out to residents and is using the city’s water bill as the means to do so.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Alderman Marty Kleefisch told the council last Thursday that all homeowners will receive a double-sided newsletter containing crime prevention tips inside the October water bill. The newsletter was completely funded by the police department, Kleefisch said.
The heart of the newsletter is a section alerting senior citizens to the growing number of scams targeting the elderly. Kleefisch said the latest scam involves a youthful-sounding person calling a senior citizen claiming to be a family member who is having an emergency in a foreign country and needs to have money wired to them.
“They are professional con artists,” Kleefisch said. “I’ve gotten calls like this too, but now I usually don’t answer them and that’s what I encourage our residents to do. If they leave a message call and report them to the police.”
Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan said telephone scams like this are being reported to the police department “on a daily basis.” He said one senior citizen from Palos Hills recently fell victim to this type of scam and sent $2,000 to the caller. It was only when the caller phoned again asking for an additional $1,000 did she become suspicious and notify police.
“Thankfully she didn’t send the extra $1,000 but she was already out the $2,000 that she sent earlier,” Madigan said. “These calls all come from overseas so it’s almost impossible to track down the person making the calls.”
Madigan said one way to ensure the caller is legitimately a family member is to call them back at a known number.
“We’re telling people to never send any money until they can verify the story,” he said.
Madigan also warned residents to be on the alert of email scams from the “stranded traveler” asking the recipient to send money.
“Our advice is don’t open the email if you are unsure who the sender is,” he said.
The newsletter also includes information on identity theft and winter traffic safety.
‘Couldn’t stop smiling’
In other news, Mayor Gerald Bennett thanked residents for the outpouring of support they displayed in writing letters of appreciation to World War II veteran and former Public Works Commissioner George Lutz to read during the mail call portion of last month’s Honor Flight Chicago.
Lutz, 94, has outlived most of his comrades and never joined an American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post, according to his son, Charles. So when Charles learned the vets are presented with a bag of letters to read from family and friends on the return flight from Washington D.C., he feared his father would be embarrassed by receiving only a handful of letters while others received upwards of 500 letters.
Charles sent an email to Bennett a few weeks before his father’s trip on Sept. 10 asking if city employees and others who knew his father wouldn’t mind writing a quick note. Bennett went one step further by not only asking city employees to write a letter but also reaching out to North Palos School District 117 to see if the students wouldn’t mind penning a note of thanks.
The grassroots campaign resulted in George Lutz receiving an Honor Flight record of almost 2,000 letters for mail call, Bennett said Thursday.
“It really turned out nice,” Bennett said. “[Charles Lutz] sent me an email of the events that day and he said George couldn’t stop smiling. He said his father plans on responding to all 2,000 letters and knowing George Lutz he probably will.”
Lutz held the rank of major in the United States Army Air Corps. He was stationed in India for a majority of his service flying over the Himalaya Mountains into China to supply troops, fuel and other supplies to the Chinese and American troops fighting the Japanese.
Honor Flight takes veterans on a one-day trip to the nation’s capital to view the memorials and monuments.
“What a great honor to him,” Bennett said. “[George] is quite a humble guy, but also a remarkable man. At age 94 he’s got to be one of the last pilots that flew during that [World War II].
“I thank our residents and everyone else who pitched in to make it such a special day.”