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Bogus callers

Opportunist are targeting homes claiming to be from the ‘Water Board’ warns water companies as the festive season gets underway.

Figures just released show that this year alone from 1 April to 23 November in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 97 per cent of all victims of bogus callers were aged over 60 with the most common ploy being to claim they are from the ‘Water Board’. In fact the ‘Water Board’ hasn’t existed since 1974 when the water authorities were created.

Steve George, Customer Services Director at South East Water, said: “We know that Christmas can be a time that opportunist thieves take advantage of vulnerable people, knowing that there are new presents and gifts in the home. So we want to get the message out to customers that there are simple steps that can be taken to stay safe.

“As an added security measure, customers can set up a password for their account which all our staff will use when knocking on the door.”

South East Water and Southern Water customers should always check the identification card of anyone claiming to be an employee while looking at their clothing as all water company staff and contractors wear distinctive uniform and are happy to wait while any checks are carried out. Detective Chief Inspector Darren O’Callaghan at Hampshire Constabulary, said: “Distraction burglary is a terrible crime which leaves the victims feeling unsafe and scared in the place where they are supposed to feel the most secure.

“We would also ask that families and neighbours look out for elderly and vulnerable individuals and report anything suspicious to the police. Contact your local Safer Neighbourhood Team for more information about what you can do to support family, friends and neighbours."

Geoff Loader, Director of Communications at Southern Water, said: “The safety of our customers is a priority. If you are in any doubt when someone calls at your home you should ask for their identification card.

“We would ask customers to be particularly vigilant in areas in which we’re installing water meters.

“Staff working on the Southern Water metering programme are easily identifiable. They wear uniforms, and drive vehicles, carrying the Southern Water name and logo.”

Barbara Leech, Policy Manager at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “I urge people to take the time now to read about the checks that should be made before opening the door to an unexpected caller. Distraction burglary often isn’t reported as people feel silly and suffer in silence, believing that they could perhaps have prevented it. Don’t let it happen to you.”

As a first line of defence people should make sure their front doors are fitted with chains and use them before answering the door and if in doubt, keep them out and call South East Water on 0800 519 2222, Southern Water on 0845 278 0845 or the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Article posted on: 14 December 2012

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