Yesterday, we brought you word of a scam in which thieves would impersonate Food and Drug Administration agents in a bid to bully the unsuspecting victim into paying a fee lest they face phony criminal charges. But that’s far from the only scam that’s being perpetrated at this time of the year.
The New York Police Department is particularly concerned about a scheme in which criminals impersonate utility workers so that they can gain access to citizens’ homes. Although the safety tips provided by the department hail from the other side of the country, the insights offered should be understood by residents of the West Coast as well as the East Coast.
One of the first things you should do is keep your home locked at all times. Should someone come knocking, do not open the door until you can verify who the individual is, especially if you were not expecting a visitor in the first place.
You should ask that the person seeking access produce identification that proves who they are and what they do. However, this doesn’t automatically mean that they are who they say they are. There’s always the possibility that particularly enterprising criminals will put on a fake uniform and even put together phony identification just so they can enter the households of overly trusting individuals.
That’s why you should not just ask for identification, you should call the utility or maintenance company that they purport to work for. Ask the company to provide you with the employee’s name so that you know they’re on the level. If you live in an apartment complex and the worker claims to be a contractor for the building, call your landlord or apartment manager so that they can set your mind at ease as to the necessity of the individual being there.
There are also certain warning signs to look out for that could signify a fraud is being committed. The first tipoff should be whether they balk when you ask for identification or check for verification with their employer. An employee of a maintenance or utility company should be used to this type of treatment, and they have no reason to not acquiesce to this demand. Be on guard should the person start to badger you into letting them into the home. These types of scare tactics are commonplace among criminals who want to gain access to the home by any means necessary. Typically, this hectoring will involve them saying that you’re about to lose service if you don’t let them in or pay them in cash right away.
Finally, be a good neighbor and keep an eye out for suspicious persons prowling around the neighborhood. If something feels off, consider calling the police to look into the situation.