Bromley Police are reminding residents to be on the lookout for distraction burglars posing as officials who are tricking their way into people’s homes, following a number of recent incidents across the borough (ten in November alone).
Common ruses used by bogus officials include dressing smartly or wearing what might look like an official uniform. They might claim to be water board officials (as in the recent cases), meter readers, or any other official sounding occupation. They will often prey on a victim’s fear – for example claiming that if they are not let in to check the water supply, the victim will be responsible for any damage. If posing as a meter reader, they will often claim they have a right to enter a property. Alternatively, offenders operate as bogus workmen, claiming that essential work needs doing. For example, they might say that they need to turn off the water supply via a stop cock as there’s a leak or claim that a leaking roof needs to be fixed.
Detective Sergeant Miles Fuller from Bromley Police said “This is an evil crime. Cowardly and dishonest criminals deliberately ruin the lives of decent, honest and vulnerable people – people who have worked hard for what little they have and who are in every sense the most undeserving of victims.
Pretending to be from a utility like ‘the Water Board’ or ‘the Gas Company’ is the most common technique that these callous thieves use to trick their way into peoples homes. We really need to get the message home to people, particularly the elderly who are the most likely targets, that they should never let anyone into their homes without being shown the correct identification. By following a few simple steps this despicable crime could so easily be avoided.
I would also ask people to keep an eye out for vulnerable neighbours and if you see anything suspicious or if you have had a dubious caller at your door, please report it to the police immediately. We need your help to ensure these criminals are brought to justice.”
Police are reminding residents:
Before opening your door, check who’s calling and if someone calls who you do not recognise keep the door chain on. Remember that you are under no obligation to speak with any cold callers. If you are not happy, you do not need to open your door. “If in doubt, keep them out.” Turn them away. That is your right. If you are at all suspicious of anyone, do not hesitate to call us via 999.
Check the caller’s appearance and ask for identification, which should include a photo. Genuine utility workers will wear a uniform and drive a company-signed vehicle. These burglars will often say that they are from the “water board”, “gas board” or “electricity board.” A genuine caller would never use such terms because “boards” ceased to exist when those industries were privatised. The burglars use phrases like this because they think that elderly residents will be familiar with them. If genuine, they will be from one of the privatised companies and will have photo identification to prove it. There should be a number to call so that you can confirm the caller is genuine. Any legitimate caller or official will not mind waiting outside while you ring the number to check.
Many utility companies will have a verified password scheme. If you have registered for this scheme and the caller cannot give the password, do not let them in.
The safest place for your money is in the bank. It’s best not to keep large amounts of cash at home.