The Old Fix 'n' Steal: Is Your Repairman Ripping You Off?

RepairmanWe don't trust a lot of people to wander our homes unsupervised. But we do trust a few, specifically plumbers, electricians, construction workers, cable guys and the other repair persons who keep our lives functioning. But sometimes those home repairmen abuse that trust, in low-down, despicable, and creative ways.

Wilfredo Gonzalez-Cruz was remodeling a home in Cicero, Ill., when he asked to use the bathroom. Behind closed doors, he allegedly filched the customer's diamond ring, according to NBC Chicago. The woman noticed, told her husband, and in the tussle that followed, Gonzalez-Cruz reportedly gulped the ring down.

Police promptly escorted the repairman to the local hospital, where doctors X-rayed his insides, and gave him medicine to "force the expulsion of the ring," bringing him to a rubber room with bedpans, to expel in privacy.

The ring has been recovered and Gonzalez-Cruz now faces felony theft charges and up to three years in prison.

Just a few days earlier, police arrested Stephvone Chandler, an Atlanta-based cable man, who stole jewelry on-the-job, as well as thousands of dollars of equipment from his employer, Comcast. As reports, Chandler stole from a number of customers, including one woman who was in bed recovering from chemotherapy treatment. Chandler would then pawn the loot for cash.

There's no way to avoid having strangers in your home when the pipes leak, an outlet dies or the Internet glitches, unless you're a home repair whiz or friends with one. But there are ways to minimize the risks involved. Always make sure you're using a reputable company, for one, and whenever possible, stay at home while the repairman's there.

Alan Young, a residential security expert and CEO of Armor Concepts, suggests that individuals take valuables out of plain sight. People are more likely to grab a $100 bill sitting on the counter, than to "rifle through your drawers and go through your closets," in search of high-priced goods.

Watch the repairman as he or she leaves, Young also advises, although that might not help if the valuable in question is swimming in the person's stomach.

It also won't help if the repairman has used the opportunity in your house to simply take stock of what you have, with the intention of returning sometime in the future, when nobody's home.

"This happens more than we like to think," Young warns. "People will come to do a repair, take a mental image of what you have, and a few weeks later you'll miraculously be robbed."

To avoid this kind of strategic burglary, individuals should equip their homes with a good old-fashioned security system. Or, alternatively, everyone could just teach themselves every possible home repair skill and never need a repairman at all. DIY, on the other hand, has some other risks involved.

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