The LAPD Rampart Division and the DWP warned residents about an increase in reports of elderly minority residents being burglarized and defrauded by criminals posing as utility workers. The LAPD said 10 of these crimes have already been reported this year (compared to 55 for all of 2009), according to figures released at a press conference. Last year’s crimes included an Angelino Heights couple who were in their 80s and a Solano Canyon family that lost $12,000 in cash and other items. Many of the elderly victims have been female and all have either been Korean, Chinese or Latino, said Lt. Wes Buhrmester with the Rampart Division. Buhrmester described another ploy being used by these impostors:
victim that for their cooperation, they will receive a utility rebate. They say the rebate is $50, then ask the victim for change for a $100 bill, as that is all they have. If they are given money, they advise they will be right back, then they never return.”
DWP Director of Security Pat Findley offers the following advice:
1. Be aware of these impostors, and also be watchful to ensure your elderly friends, neighbors and family members are not victimized.
2. Never allow anyone into your house that you did not summon. DWP workers rarely, if ever, have the need to enter a residence. All their work is done outside. On several occasions, suspects have said they have to “flush out” water lines. DWP flushes lines from the street. Be suspicious if a utility worker claims the need to enter a house.
3. DWP field personnel DO NOT handle money. They will never engage in cash transactions.
4. DWP field personnel wear work uniforms with DWP logos, and will have an ID card visible on their person. If you have a DWP employee at your door and doubt their legitimacy, obtain the employee number of the ID card and call 1-800-DIAL-DWP. If you think this person is a burglar, phone 9-1-1.
5. DWP and utilities personnel will have a work truck with them. DWP trucks are marked with the city seal on the doors, and have exempt license plates.