OGDEN — The Champaign County sheriff is warning people who have recently lost loved ones to be on their guard against a scam artist.
Sheriff Dan Walsh said two women whose husbands died in August were approached at their homes in Odgen by a man saying he was a University of Illinois student selling books to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Both incidents happened on Aug. 24, Walsh said.
Walsh said in one case, the man said he knew the woman's late husband. She then invited him in to their home.
"He asked for a glass of water. She leaves to get it and he snatches a $100 bill from a donation to the Wounded Warriors that was in cash among her sympathy cards," Walsh said.
The woman wrote him a check, but after he left noticed the missing $100 bill, realized he was probably a fake, and stopped payment on her check.
Walsh said in the other incident which happened the same day, the widow was too distraught to talk to the man and asked him to leave.
The suspect was described as a white male in his early 20s, about 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, with a slender build.
At both homes, the man got out of the passenger side of a light-colored or gray car that was parked down the block from the women's houses. The women had no information on the driver.
Walsh said the cases were reported to his office Aug. 29 but he only learned of them Tuesday.
"I definitely believe they are actively checking the obituaries. Both were within two days of the obituaries appearing," said Walsh.