A gang of thieves dressed up as various officials and tricked elderly people into handing them keys, which were then duplicated and used to break into hundreds of apartments, police in Rishon Lezion said Sunday.

Three suspects are under arrest following an undercover investigation into a wave of home robberies over the past year.

After receiving a string of burglary complaints, the Rishon Lezion police’s Crime- Fighting Unit began mapping out the offenses according to geographical area and the methods used to break into homes.

The team of detectives quickly realized that the same gang was behind the breakins, and that its members were duplicating apartment keys to get into the properties, most of which are inhabited by the elderly.

“They choose a location, carry out a check to see if it is empty or they lead the home’s occupants out, and then proceed with a quiet break-in and steal valuables,” police spokeswoman Leah Zohar said.

Stolen goods include jewelry, cash and checks. The thieves disguised themselves as police officers, municipal workers, post office employees and healthcare officials to get hold of keys for duplication and lead the elderly victims out of their homes ahead of the robberies.

Undercover officers staking out the suspects arrested two men as they entered a home with a duplicate key on Friday.

A third suspect, the getaway driver, was arrested soon afterwards just outside the targeted building.

“The suspects have a criminal record of past break-ins,” Zohar added.

Police searched the suspects’ homes and recovered thousands of shekels in cash, as well as key duplication equipment.

“We ask senior citizens to be on the alert for these type of incidents. You should not give identifying details [such as addresses and phone numbers] or keys to your home or vehicle to any person without a clear reason,” police said.

Anyone claiming to be a police officer, municipal inspector or mail official should be asked to produce a photo ID, and their details should be written down, police added.

“We ask any resident of the area who has encountered this type of incident to come to a police station and file a complaint,” police said.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger