An Oak Flats great grandmother's good and caring nature allowed an alleged fraudster to swindle her out of $4000 last week.
But Gladys Edwards has vowed not to let the incident change her nature, though it has made her more wary of strangers.
Police will allege Darren Henry Warrilow stole the 86-year-old's purse from inside her Central Avenue home on February 9 after trying to sell her his solar panel cleaning and installation service before using her credit card to make three fraudulent transactions.
"I feel guilty, stupid and think about what I should have differently," Ms Edwards said. "There are bad people out there.
"But the beauty is police have charged a man."
Ms Edwards said she invited the man into her home because she felt sorry that he had to work during pouring rain.
She said she had solar panels and was interested in getting them cleaned. As he had tradesman clothes on, Ms Edwards invited him into her home.
"It was raining and as a young man I thought he might need the work," she said.
"He sat on the lounge room chair and I sat opposite him, and he told me about cleaning my solar panels."
Ms Edwards became uneasy when the man said it would cost $380 to clean them. She said he became "pushy" prompting her to call her son about the proposal.
"When I walked back in the room, he was gone and I saw him run straight down the street opposite my home," she said.
I am trusting. I felt sorry for him and that was my biggest downfall.Gladys Edwards
Police will allege Warrilow stole Ms Edwards purse from inside her handbag.
"Later on a man rang me and told me he was from the Commonwealth Bank and that someone was trying to use my card at the ATM," she said. "He told me he would block it. I thought it was usual but I gave him my PIN number."
Warrilow allegedly used the credit card and withdrew a total of $4000 from three ATMs in Wollongong, Woonona and Corrimal that night.
It wasn't until later in the evening that Ms Edwards realised her purse was gone.
"I was shocked," she said. "I was trying to get my head around what happened."
Ms Edwards went to Lake Illawarra police and the Commonwealth Bank to report her missing cards.
She was grateful to both as she said officers and the bank employee were determined to catch the alleged fraudster.
"I am trusting. I felt sorry for him and that was my biggest downfall," she said. "If it had not been raining I wouldn't have let him inside. My father taught me to be honest and caring.
"What happened isn't going to change my nature, it has made me very wary and showed me you can't trust everyone these days."
Lake Illawarra Police District Inspector James Darke said police were investigating other offences Warrilow may have committed and encouraged anyone who thinks they have been approached by him, or someone similar, to come forward.
"It is a very low act when people target our most vulnerable members of the community," he said.
"Often the victims are alone and elderly. They can feel intimidated by these people who are quite forceful in their approach.
"They offer to clean driveways, paint roofs, install solar panels, say they need to collect outstanding debts, all sorts of things. They are not tradespeople. They are just phonies there to take people's money."
Insp Darke said the message to remember was "if you don't know people, don't let them inside your house".
"Ask for identification and find out what work they are offering to do.
"Don't keep money in the house and don't leave valuables lying around.
"If you are uncomfortable, call your local police station, Crime Stoppers or Fair Trading."