On Tuesday, August 13, a woman was charged with burglary of habitation while posing as a Realtor. Rebecca Lynn Bench was arrested for burglarizing the northwest Houston home, and a second suspect, Laura Kristen Campas is currently at-large and wanted for questioning.
Bench and a second woman, believed to be Campas, entered the residence, 762 E. 17th Street, posing as a Realtor and prospective buyer of the home during the afternoon of July 5. The homeowners left the suspects at the location and returned to find items missing from their home.
Houston Police Department Officer Natalie Barnes reported that the two researched the pictures of home online prior to the burglary.
“In speaking with Ms. Bench, they would find homes online using HAR.com [the website of the Houston Association of Realtors] and find their prospective homes,” she said, according to ABC Local. “When you do that, you get a layout of someone’s house pretty well, and so it doesn’t take you long to maneuver through someone’s house that way.”
Tips to Prevent a Burglary
This is not the only burglary that occurred recently in the Houston area. The suspects are believed to be responsible for another burglary at 2300 Welch Street on July 19, where the same scenario occurred, but there were no witnesses present.
Courtesy of ABC Local, the Houston Association of Realtors has some safety reminders to give to the real estate community to prevent a burglary from occurring:
- Realtors typically remind their clients whose homes are listed for sale that strangers will be walking through their home during showings or open houses. They are advised to hide valuables in a safe place as well as to remove keys, credit cards, jewelry, crystal, furs and other valuables from the home or lock them away during showings. It is also a good idea to remove any prescription drugs.
- Home sellers should not leave personal information like mail or bills out in the open where anyone can see it. They are also urged to lock down computers, laptops and any other expensive, easy-to-pocket electronics, like iPods, before a showing.
- Home sellers should not show their home by themselves. They need to know that not all agents, buyers and sellers are who they say they are. Predators come in all shapes and sizes. Sellers should avoid talking to other agents or buyers, and refer all inquiries to their designated Realtor.
- At an open house, be alert to the pattern of visitors’ arrivals, especially near the end of showing hours. In some areas, a group of thieves will show up together near the end of the open house and, while a string of “potential buyers” distracts the agent, the rest of the group walks through the house, stealing any valuables they come across.
- When leaving a client’s property, whether after an open house or a standard showing, to make sure that all doors and windows are locked. Thieves commonly use open houses to scout for valuables and possible points of entry, then return after the agent leaves.
- When the home seller returns to his/her house, they should immediately verify that all doors are locked and all valuables accounted for.
- Last, but definitely not least: Immediately contact the police if you suspect any suspicious/criminal activity.