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Orange County Focus

BUENA PARK : Police Warn About Utility Worker Ruse

August 21, 1993|DEBRA CANO

Police warn that thieves are posing as utility workers to get inside homes to commit crimes.

In two incidents reported recently, both involving elderly people, police said, two men used the ruse to rob the victims of cash.

"It's not a new one; it's just different people doing an old scam," said Detective David L. Woofter, fraud investigator.

In these incidents, police said, one of the individuals goes with the resident to check an alleged water problem, while the other looks for items to steal.

In one incident, an 89-year-old man was robbed of his wallet with $10,000 inside. Sharon Parsons, crime prevention officer, said in that incident, the man was watering his lawn and was approached by two men who identified themselves as water department employees. The men told him they needed to check for water contamination.

Once inside his home and after faking the water check, one of the robbers told the man he owed him $20 for the service, Parsons said. The man took his wallet from his pants pocket and one of the men grabbed it and fled.

Parsons said elderly people make perfect crime victims because "they grew up in a time when there was not as much crime, and they're more trusting and dependent on others."

Woofter said that in another common scam, thieves sell what they claim is a gold bar for between $3,000 and $4,000. The bar is polished brass.

Phone solicitors also should be checked out with the Police Department or the company the person claims to be representing, Woofter said.

Other tips include:

* Don't let strangers into your home.

* Don't provide credit card information to anyone over the phone.

* Call the utility company or the city to verify that the person at your door is actually an employee.

* Ask for photo identification of anyone claiming to represent the city or utility companies.

* Check to see if the person is driving an official company or city vehicle.

* City employees or legitimate representatives of utility companies will be wearing a distinguishable uniform.

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