The Consumer Council for Water and Help the Aged are warning householders to protect themselves against bogus callers.
The organisations say around half of all bogus caller crimes involve the perpetrator claiming a connection with ‘the Water Board’.
Householders are being reminded that water companies will normally only call by appointment, but even where an unexpected visit is necessary a true water company employee will carry an identification card, which they’ll be happy to hand over for closer inspection.
If the visitor claims to have left the identification card at home the property owner is urged to turn them away and call 999 if he or she insists that they need access immediately.
Customers who would feel safer with more protection against bogus callers are encouraged to register a password with their water company. All water companies have password schemes in which the customer can choose a password. Some companies’ password schemes have provisions for deaf and blind customers.
Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Bogus calling is a particularly disturbing crime because it deliberately targets the weak and vulnerable. Victims of these crimes are most likely to be older people who live alone.
“It is also a bigger problem than the statistics suggest, because sadly, it’s thought that only about one in ten bogus caller crimes are reported because the victims are too embarrassed to come forward.”
David Sinclair, Help the Aged head of policy, said: “Although statistically we know that older people are least at risk of crime, there are some crimes, such as bogus calling, that are targeted more at the older age groups.
“Our advice is to firstly make sure all outer doors are locked. Then stop and think – are you expecting anybody? Finally, always put the door chain on and look out of the window or spy hole to see who is calling before opening the door. Then ensure that you check identification – do not be afraid to phone the company or organisation the caller says they are from to check their validity – obtaining the number from a separate source, rather than taking it from the ID card.
“Taking these common sense precautions should help prevent this sort of crime and empower older people to maintain their independence by feeling safe in their own homes.
“Help the Aged also operates a national HandyVan service for older people in some areas of the UK.2 The programme is offered free of charge to those aged over 60 who meet a charitable criteria in areas where the service operates. HandyVan fitters call by appointment only, and then assess older people’s security and safety needs. They then fit items such as locks, spy-holes, door chains, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.”
To find out more about Help the Aged’s HandyVan service, or other services on offer, call 0845 672 2140.