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Police warn residents to be cautious of alleged utility workers in distraction scam

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published: April 30, 2014 12:00 AM

Hudson -- Senior citizens will soon take advantage of warming temperatures and lengthening days by spending more time on porches and patios than huddled inside under a blanket.

However, local police are warning that the nicer weather also will bring out those wanting to take advantage of seniors.

Burglars in several Akron and Cleveland suburbs have been using a "distraction burglary" technique to steal items from unsuspecting and trusting seniors, according to Hudson Police Det. Kaija Jeantet.

The burglary usually involves two men dressed in some sort of official clothing.

"Two men wearing credible work clothes approach a residence, typically of seniors, and say they are from the water department," Jeantet warned.

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One of the men will ask the resident to take him to the basement to check the water pressure or some variation.

"Once in the basement, the burglar makes some noise running water at the utility sink and talking loudly over the water noise," Jeantet said. "He uses a radio or cell phone to talk to his partner in coded language."

While the resident is in the basement, the other man, who stays outside, quickly enters the home and steals jewelry, silver or cash.

"People are extremely predictable where they store these things," according to Jeantet. "After the theft happens, the nice water company guy thanks the person and leaves."

Recently, Akron Police warned residents of a man going door-to-door saying he was a water department employee.

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"The victim was advised by the alleged utility worker of possible problems with her underground water pipes," according to Akron Police. "Once invited in, the alleged utility worker escorted the resident around the condo, checking various utility faucets and appliances. While preoccupying the victim, another suspect entered the residence and removed cash and valuables."

The Akron Water Department is not responsible for fixing problems or testing inside a home and rarely has a reason to ask for entry, according to police.

"We have not had any such incidents reported in Hudson and would like to keep it that way and protect our folks," Jeantet said.

There are several things residents can do to protect themselves from becoming a victim, according to police.

"If a stranger asks to come into your home unexpectedly, ask for their ID or ask them to wait while you check with the water department or other place they represent," Jeantet said. "When utility employees need to enter a home, there has usually been some type of notice given to residents by the company, letting residents know the reason for it and when to expect a visit."

It is rare for any utility employees to spontaneously appear and ask to come into a home, according to Jeantet. This in itself should be considered suspicious.

"A legitimate employee will not be offended if the consumer asks for an ID, a work order, or other verification," Jeantet added. "If a person at your door seems pushy, offended, or suspicious, please call your local police to respond."

To report a suspicious person, call Hudson Police at 330-342-1800.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

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