A quick-witted elderly woman tricked her would-be rapist out of attacking her by telling him she had HIV.

Helen Reynolds, 88, of Pennsylvania, US, said the suspect posed as an apartment complex employee and forced his way into her apartment after knocking on her door and asking for a drink last month, according to the Parkesburg Borough Police Department.

"I said to him, 'Well, it's like this,'" Reynolds told reporters.

"You might as well know the truth," she said. "I have HIV and my husband died from it, which is a lie. When I said that, he just walked out of the bedroom. That's the comment that saved my life."

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Reynolds said the man used duct tape to bind her once inside.

"Her wrapped it all around my face and my nose and my eyeglasses," she said.

"He had a piece in my mouth."

The woman said her ruse worked at just the right time, as the suspect had already taken off her pants and removed his own, she told Philly.com.

The suspect had put a box of condoms on Reynolds' nightstand just before she told him the lie that she credits for saving her life.

Reynolds then "kicked him where it hurt him the most," she said.

The suspect used wire from his coat pocket to bind Reynolds' ankles before using her bathroom. He also took batteries out of her two house phones and about $40 from her purse before leaving her apartment.

The home invasion is not related to another in the area just five days later, when a 72-year-old woman was choked unconscious, tied up and thrown into a closet for four days. A 17-year-old boy who escaped from a behavioural health facility was charged with attempted homicide, robbery and related offences in that incident.

Police said Ms Reynolds was not seriously injured and investigators were reviewing video surveillance footage from the area in hopes of locating him.