Banish Bogus Callers This Christmas

Police remind residents to be on their guard against dodgy doorsteppers

Residents are being warned to be on their guards for dodgy workmen, bogus officials and doorstep sellers in the run-up to Christmas.

Thieves know that especially older people could have large amounts of money at home to buy Christmas presents, or from their Winter Fuel Payment, and that is an attractive prospect for immoral and unscrupulous criminals.

Therefore Hounslow Community Safety Partnership are reminding older people in the borough to be vigilant of callers who come unannounced and claim to be offering services, like drive resurfacing or roofing, or say they are from a utility company or statutory agency, like Hounslow Council.

In December, Hounslow Police will be leading a huge high-visibility initiative aimed at deterring this type of criminal from operating, but while this will have some impact, residents must be vigilant too.

Chief Supt David Bilson, borough commander of Hounslow Police, said,“This is an evil crime. They are cowardly and despicable criminals who prey on the most vulnerable members of our community. We must all work together to to stop them!"

He continued "The message to older people is clear - please be vigilant. If you notice suspicious people in your area, especially using unmarked white vans, contact us. It is very likely they are up to no good. Be a good neighbour. If you have a neighbour who is older or vulnerable in any way, for example they have a disability, and you spot work happening at their home, like roofing or drive re-surfacing, contact the police. We are more than happy to send an officer around to check the authenticity of the workmen.”

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, meter readers, police officers 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 a leaking roof needs to be fixed.

Another, more sinister example of their work involves them calling at the door to offer maintenance services, like drive paving or roof tiling. They will often quote a small price, do a shoddy job, then charge ten times more than the original quote. In some instances, they will demand money with the threat of violence.

In some instances, they will distract the older person to enter their home and steal from them. Often, older people are too scared, or embarrassed to report what has happened to them.

Police are reminding residents of the tricks used by deception burglars to demonstrate warning signs and issuing advice

Don’t open your door to cold callers and the best advice is "If in doubt, keep them out." If you are at all suspicious of anyone, do not hesitate to call police via 999, or trading standards on 020 8583 5555 quoting “Doorsteppers”.

If someone calls who you do not recognise, keep the door chain or door bar on. If you do have to open the door to speak with callers, make sure the door chain or door bar is put on first. 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.

Ask the individual for identification and contact the company they say they work for to make sure they are genuine. If they are genuine, they will not mind. Also, 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.

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 – like Thames Water - 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.

Call police via 999, or trading standards on 020 8583 5555 quoting “Doorsteppers” if you have concerns.

The safest place for your money is in the bank. It's best not to keep large amounts of cash at home.

November 28, 2007