Police warns OAP's over doorstep conmen

posing as water board employees or police officers...


Putney OAP is conned

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Elderly residents are being urgently warned to be on their guard against doorstep con artists who are targeting OAPs in the borough. Research has shown that the average victim of this form of burglary is 78-years-old and that 77 per cent are women.

Detectives say that there have been 14 distraction burglaries in the borough since August 19, where conmen have tricked their way into the homes of elderly residents and then stolen cash and other valuables.

They have conned their way into homes by posing as either police officers or water board officials.

When they've pretended to be police officers, they have produced a fake warrant card, which lacks a genuine Metropolitan Police metal crest. A real warrant card should also give the officer's number and name.

If anyone purporting to be a police officer calls unexpectedly, residents should ask them to wait outside and not allow them into their homes, while they telephone Wandsworth police on (020) 8870 9011 to verify the caller's identity.

When they have posed as water company workers they have worn workmen's overalls. However, residents are being reminded that a genuine water board official will not normally require access to your home unless you yourself have asked them to fix a leak or deal with another problem.

Again, residents should ask them to wait outside, shut the door to prevent them getting in and call Thames Water on 0845 9200 800 to check they are genuine.

A frequent ploy used by the burglars is to try and frighten the occupier by telling them have a leak. If there is a leak in your premises you would almost certainly be already aware of it.

Most of these burglaries have taken place between 11.30am and 4.30pm. Most, but not all, of the victims have been white women, aged over 60.

The two offenders are both white males, aged between 20 or 30, sometimes they are described as having an Irish accent. Occasionally they will call as a pair, at other times there will only be one of them knocking at your door.

In order to avoid falling victim to con artists, residents should heed the following advice.

� Do not open the door to unexpected callers. Always put your door chain on first. If you are able to go upstairs, go and speak to the caller from an upstairs window.

� Do not let anyone in whose identity you are not sure of. Anyone who calls from the council, the gas board, the electricity board or the water companies, will carry official identity cards. These cards will contain the person�s name, a photograph, job title, organisation, card number and expiry date. There will also be a telephone number you can ring to verify the caller�s details.

� Use your telephone to confirm a caller�s details. Ask the organisation to confirm the cardholder�s name and that he or she still works for their company. All staff working for the council or the utility companies know they must show their card. Do not feel uncomfortable asking to see proof of identification from any official caller - a genuine caller will expect you to check their identity.

� Don't let people into your home until you are sure. If you are not sure about a caller�s identity, do not open your door. Ask them to go away and write to you offering you an appointment. This means you can have somebody with you when they call again.

� If you do not have a safety chain on your door, ask the person to post their identity card through the letterbox. If you are not happy with their details, telephone the number on the card.

� If a caller does not go away and becomes a nuisance then telephone 999 immediately and ask for the police.

This type of crime tends to be under-reported for a variety of reasons. Many people do not realise until much later that they have been a victim while others are too embarrassed to call the police.

The Home Office estimates that the police are only notified in about a third of all cases, even though the burglars often escape with large sums of money, including people's life savings or irreplaceable family heirlooms.

September 14, 2005