POLICE are advising Wolverhampton residents to be vigilant following two ‘bogus official’ burglaries yesterday in which pensioners were targeted by conmen claiming to be investigating a gas explosion.
Three men purporting to be gas board employees tricked their way into an 81-year-old woman’s home in Ecclestone Road, Ashmore Park, at around 7.20pm and managed to grab Â£400 in cash before fleeing.
The thieves said they needed to check the water supply as a gas explosion may have damaged the local sewerage system. One was said to have moustache and be wearing a black deerstalker hat and jacket.
And the same tactic was used around 30 minutes earlier by a man who talked his way into a property in Hampstead Close, Wednesfield.
On this occasion, though, the ‘bogus official’ left empty handed after coming face-to-face with the elderly resident’s carer in an upstairs bedroom.
West Midlands Police Chief Inspector Anthony Tagg, said: “Distraction burglars are particularly cowardly and prey on the most vulnerable members of society, often the elderly. Several hundred pounds was stolen from one lady last nightâ€¦the burglars even shoved her against a wall when she became suspicious and challenged them.
“The tactic used on both occasions is almost identical so we’re looking into whether the incidents may be linked.
“Our message is always ‘if in doubt, keep them out’. If you have any concerns or suspicions call the police on 0345 113 5000 and in an emergency dial 999.”
There are several precautions residents can take to help protect them selves against distraction burglars:
- Â Check to see who’s at the door by using a spy hole or look through a window.
- Â Always put the chain on before you open the door. Door chains are available from most DIY stores for as little as Â£2.
- Â Bogus callers sometimes work in pairs; beware of one distracting you while others steal property. Always make sure any rear or side access doors are locked before opening the front door to prevent anyone sneaking in.
- Â 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 check. You could also phone the company or organisation to verify they are genuine by using a number from the telephone directory and not a number given to you by the caller.
- Â Utility companies operate password schemes whereby, if you register a password with them, any caller purporting to be from that company will give you that password if they need to enter your property.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Wolverhampton Police Acquisitive Crime Team at Bloxwich police station CID on 0345 113 5000 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.