WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Wilmington Police Department wants the public to know that if it feels like it may be a target of a scam, don't hesitate to reach out to law enforcement.
Police say the scam involved the suspect falsely saying a local church had sent him.
"We want to remind everyone, if something seems a little bit off and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up a little bit, there's a reason for that," WPD Det. Rob Ferencak said. "The best thing anyone can do in that scenario is not try to handle it by themselves. Just call 911. That's what the police are here for. If someone is legitimately in need of help, that's what we're here for as well. But if someone is trying to do you harm, we need to be able to respond and handle the situation accordingly."
The suspect, who was filmed on a doorbell camera, eventually walked away when the resident refused to open the door.
Ferencak said that they believe the suspect likely was armed at the time.
"He's standing in front of the door for a second, this is when he already has his face covered, and he goes to adjust something in his waistband," he said. "It's a dark object. You can't clearly see what it is but It's pretty obvious that it's probably a weapon. The way he adjusts it and afterward the way he checks it again, these are known indicators of someone who has a firearm usually. It's a subconscious tic of just checking to make sure it's still there.
"I think he was going to the door hoping to get more money from somebody. And if someone had opened the door and refused to give him money, he was ready to more or less force his way into the home and take what he could. It's one thing for someone to try to force their way into your home when you're not home. It's an entirely different thing when you are home. It's not something you want to take any chances with."
Detectives working the case have a pretty clear video to work with thanks to the doorbell camera, a piece of technology that Ferencak says is a big help to law enforcement.
"Usually in years past, someone may have a camera installed in the corner," he said. "And the older cameras tend to be lower resolution and lower light settings. They're not as clear. And with these newer cameras, especially these doorbell cameras, it's extremely clear video that we're getting. And that's really helping us trying to ID suspects.
"A lot of them you can do a plug-and-play where you can set them up on a wall, and it's good to go. Or if you're the least bit savvy with anything electrical, you can actually take the existing wires that are in your wall, take off the old doorbell and connect it to the system. You can't even tell it's a camera. It looks like an oversize doorbell."
Ferencak also discussed how scammers are getting savvier. He said sometimes they'll pretend to be representing a business you may be using.
"The best thing I could tell you, if it's a phone scam, in person, through email, always contact the source yourself," he said. "If someone is cold calling, just say, 'I appreciated you calling me but I'm going to contact my bank, or contact my department store, or contact my insurance company directly myself.' That way you know it's coming from a verified source.
"They have gotten pretty complicated in their methods and, unfortunately, it's made it easier for them to take advantage of people."
Ferencak also said that if someone contacts you saying you owe money and insists you send them a gift card as payment, it's a huge red flag.
"If anyone ever calls you on the phone or emails you and says you owe us money and they want you to pay it with some sort of gift card, that's absolutely a scam," he said.
Ferencak said the incident in the Princess Place Drive area still is under investigation. He also wants people who find themselves in similar situations to reach out to law enforcement immediately.
"Don't hesitate to call 911 in a situation like that," he said. "We need to know sooner rather than later so we have a better shot of identifying these people or if it's actually happening as they're calling, maybe an officer can get out there and stop them right there."