Crooks posing as home buyers distract Polk woman, steal belongings

POLK COUNTY, Fla.  (WFLA) – Home sellers beware.

Crooks posing as potential buyers could show up at your door and tell you they’re looking for the house of their dreams. But in reality, they want to raid your home and take whatever they can get their hands on.

Two women from Haines City will tell you they learned this the hard way.

Annette Cutchin was ready to say goodbye to the house she lived in for nearly 15 years. She has plans to move to Vegas and decided to put her place up for sale.

She said a man and a woman showed up to her driveway posing as prospective buyers, so she showed them inside her home.

“I didn’t have any suspicions,” Cutchin said about the couple.  “No, they were normal.  They asked the right questions.”

The woman told Annette she had to go back to her car, so that she could get her phone and take some photos of the house.  She left and Annette continued to show the man around the house.

The woman came back in while Annette was outside and stole her purse, which contained Annette’s wallet, her and her mother’s debit cards, her driver’s license and pictures that cannot be replaced.

The duo worked fast—“Maybe two minutes, if that,” Cutchin told News Channel 8.  “It wasn’t long.”

The suspect then went to a nearby Publix and a nearby Dollar General and racked up nearly $1,100 in purchases that include hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards and a birthday card.  The crime was caught on camera.

The bank called Annette’s mother, Ruby to advise her they suspected fraud on the account after a large purchase was made at Publix. Ruby told the bank she hadn’t been shopping all day and they decided to put a hold on her card.

When asked how surprised she was that the suspects were bold enough to take the cards, Annette said, “Very.  I felt stupid.  I left them in the house to rob me.”

Haines City Police Chief Gary Hester advises people not to be so trusting and not open up their house to just anybody.

How would she even know, we asked him.  “She wouldn’t,” Chief Hester said.  “She would not.  She was trusting.  I’m sure she took these people at their face value.”

As for Annette, she just wants the crooks to get caught.  Meantime, her mother has other ideas.

“They’re brazen and I’d like to get ahold of them,” said Ruby Meloney.

When asked what she would do, she quickly responded, “Use my cane on them.  I got some good canes at home.”

When you do have an open house to sell your place, your best bet is to use a realtor and try to keep an eye on potential buyers as best you can.


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