Residents are being urged to get wise to the tricks distraction burglars and bogus officials after two episodes of theft in neighbouring areas.
The advice comes from Walsall Police after offenders targeted victims in their 80s and pretended to be from the Water Board.
Both the offences took place on Monday, October 18 – one in Stanley Street, Rushall, and one in Valley Road, Bloxwich.
In Stanley Street, three men visited the home and claimed to be water officials. They stole £200 before escaping in a black vehicle driven by a fourth offender.
At about 3.20pm, an 85-year-old woman who lives in Valley Road, Bloxwich, answered the door to a man who claimed he was from the Water Board. While she was distracted, a second man entered the house and stole £100.
Dave Faulkner, from force Intelligence, said: “We need to warn members of the elderly community, relatives and carers that we do not advise them to let strangers into the home.
“By strangers we also mean people who say they are from water and energy companies or anyone else they do not know.
“We are really trying to push the message that the ‘Water board’ does not exist. There is no such thing as the water board, please be suspicious of anyone who tells you this.
“If someone comes to the door claiming they need access to your home, we don’t want people to feel they can’t say no.”
Officers have been working with representatives from Severn Trent, South Staffordshire Water and energy suppliers to help tackle distraction burglary.
Crime prevention officers Andy Gregory added, “Severn Trent and Southern Staffs Water are the two companies who supply water across the West Midlands. They write to customers if they need to gain access to the home.
“As for the energy companies, most of them will write letters to customers before they attend the home.
“Most also operate a password scheme; this means you can ask the representative for the agreed password before you open the door to them.
“We would urge elderly members of the community, or their relatives, and carers to utilise the password scheme.”
West Midlands Police has issued the following advice:
• Check to see who it is by using the spy hole if you have one, or look through a front window.
• Always put the chain on before you open the door. (If you don’t have a chain it’s a good idea to get one – they don’t cost much).
• Look at their clothing. Some official callers will have a uniform bearing their organisation’s name or symbol.
• If you don’t know the caller, ask to see their identity card. Check it carefully, and keep the chain on while you do this. Genuine callers won’t mind if you close the door while you do this.
• Some public utility services (e.g. water, electricity, gas) operate a password system. Contact your local branch to find out more.
• If you’re still not sure, ask the caller to come back later. You can then check their story by phoning the organisation or company they claim to represent. Look up the number in your own telephone directory. Don’t rely on the telephone number on their card – it may be the number of a crook’s partner.
• Bogus callers sometimes work in pairs. Beware of one distracting you while the other steals your property. The best practice is not to let them in.
• Ensure your back door is locked if you are answering the door to someone you don’t know.
• Watch out for anyone who says they’re in a hurry. Don’t let them pressure you. If in doubt, call a neighbour or friend.
• If you have any suspicions at all, don’t let them in.
• If you’re still not happy, phone the police – dial 999 – and tell them what’s happened. And tell your neighbours.
Anyone with information about the two distraction burglaries should contact Force CID at Bloxwich on 0345 113 5000.
(Photograph by David Prochazka)