2003-02-20 / Other News

Pct. Com. Issues Warning On Rash Of Utility-Imposter Burglaries

By Charles Rogers

Pct. Com. Issues Warning On Rash Of Utility-Imposter Burglaries

By Charles Rogers

In light of a series of what he calls "deception burglaries," Captain Robert Johnsen, commander of the 69th Precinct, has warned local senior citizens and others to be especially wary of possible imposters posing as utility men.

"We’ve seen it more frequently lately," said Johnsen, "where an elderly homeowner or apartment dweller has come to the door when a person representing him or herself as an employee of Verizon or Keyspan or even an oil company and is talked into letting the person into the house without doing eveything possible to check out the person’s identification. That’s the big mistake."

This type of "utility scam" has crop-ped up to a larger degree within the past few years, authorities said, and had been very effective against many unsuspecting individuals.

"These scam people sometimes claim to be inspectors," Johnsen said. "They’ll go to the home in pairs and even go to the basement on the ruse that they’re going to read meters and check pipes. Then, along the way, one of them will ask where the bathroom is and excuse himself. He then searches the place for cash and valuables."

"What our citizens must do is to be continually vigilant," Johnsen said. "They must remember to always ask for — and check — the utility representative’s photo identification card and, if there is any question, ask for the supervisor’s name and phone number. Then they must follow through and call the number." He said he knew of a few cases where the so-called "inspectors" fled as soon as the victim picked up the phone.

The precinct commander cited an-other instance recently where the con artist was checking a resident’s utility bill and then volunteered to pay it for the customer, accepting cash and giving the customer a receipt in the form of a check. A few days later, the customer received a letter informing him the check had bounced.

The utility person, of course, could not be found.

"The lesson here is that people should know they must not give cash to anyone who says he has connections with a utility company and offers to pay a bill for you. It’s just not done that way."

Although it was not considered a "utility scam," last week — but a scam against a senior citizen — an elderly lady from East 91 Street said she was met at the door by a person who said she was her neighbor"from across the street" who brought her the mail, citing the task as a good will gesture. The senior citizen invited her in and even offered her a cup of coffee while they passed the time of day.

The senior later said that, while she was talking with the person who brought her mail — her "good neighbor " — a confederate of the visitor sneaked into the house through a back door, ransacked a bedroom and stole an undetermined amount of cash and jewelry.

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