Warning: Burglars read the obituaries, too

By Herb Weisbaum, The ConsumerMan

Losing a loved one is painful enough. Imagine the horror of coming home from the funeral to find your home burglarized. 

That was the nightmare awaiting Cindy and Dennis Hidgon of Clarkson, Ken., last week after the couple buried their son Christian, who had been murdered a few days earlier. 

“When I walked in, you know, I think I did just almost fall,” Cindy Hidgon told WLKY news. “I thought, ‘Dear Good, you don’t do this.’ They had to be just totally heartless people.” 

The house was ransacked while everyone was gone. The thieves took laptops, jewelry, guns and cash. 

“It’s not the monetary value of what they took. It’s like they totally humiliated us in our own house,” Dennis Hidgon told WLKY. 

Kentucky State Police say the burglars assumed the house would be empty while everyone was at the cemetery.  It’s possible, police say, there was an accomplice at the funeral. 

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. “Obituary burglaries,” as they are sometimes called, are happening across the country.

In March, burglars broke into the home of Normaline and Robert Skees in Hardin County, Kentucky while she was at the cemetery burying her husband of ten years. Kentucky State Police say the thieves took several guns, jewelry, coins and more than 30 pocket watches. 

“I cannot even describe in words what it felt like to have all that stuff that he had spent his entire life collecting gone in such a short time,” Normaline told WAVE TV.

Last month, Sherriff’s deputies in Snohomish County, Wash., (just north of Seattle) arrested three men for more than a half-dozen obituary burglaries that took place between December of 2011 and March of this year.

Burglars broke into the home of John and Danutsia Burgy while they were attending his mother’s funeral. They got away with nearly half a million dollars in jewelry and family heirlooms. On what was an incredibly sad day, the Burgys had to deal with losing their financial security. 

“They cleared us out,” John Burgy told KOMO TV. “I mean, they took anything of any value at all. 

Many of the stolen items had sentimental value. The burglars took papers and artifacts dating back to World War II that belonged to Danutsia’s parents, including her mother’s wedding ring. They also grabbed John Burgy’s awards, citations and commission papers from 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. 

“In their world, we’re all a bunch of dang suckers,” Burgy told KOMO. “And they probably look at us as just marks.” 

Shari Irenton, Communications Director for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department says an empty house is an inviting target for thieves. 

“It just makes it a lot easier for criminals to get in, spend as much time as they want inside and to get out,” Ireton tells me.

Some funeral homes now warn about the risk of burglary. On its website, the Cypress Fairbanks Funeral Home in Houston, Texas, suggests a number of ways to help the bereaved family. Along with answering the phone, greet visitors, and coordinate food, they also list: “House-sit to prevent burglaries during the funeral and visitations.” 

Any time you’re going to be gone for an extended period, especially when it’s fairly obvious (such as a funeral, high school graduation or vacation) get a house sitter or ask the neighbors to watch the place and report any suspicious activity. 

“People looking out for each other is the best form of crime prevention,” Ireton says. 

And as harsh as this may sound, don’t post funeral details on social media sites. Bad guys read those, too. Your funeral notice just lets them know when the house will be empty. 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad people in the world. Remember that and act accordingly to protect yourself.

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