A HIGH-SPEED alert system aims to thwart thieves who pose as water workers in the Leigh area.
United Utilities has joined forces with Trading Standards bosses to issue the rapid warnings to communities when bogus callers strike.
Vital information about potential crimes can be fired to every Trading Standards team across the whole of the north west region within minutes – helping stop conmen in their tracks.
United Utilities ID security administrator Kate Fox said: “We’re doing things differently to help our customers. We always advise our customers to report potential fraudsters to the police, but by working with Trading Standards we can make sure the alert goes far and wide as quickly as possible.
“It’s all thanks to our strengthened links with the Trading Standards North West Intelligence Hub near our headquarters in Warrington.
“Our direct line to them means they can share the information with all 22 trading watchdogs across the North West within minutes.
“In October alone, we reported five potential bogus callers to Trading Standards.”
Mike Leyden, strategic lead for doorstep crime for Trading Standards North West said all councils had their own methods of alerting local communities, including local police, neighbourhood watch groups and other organisations representing vulnerable sections of society, like the elderly.
“Bogus callers can be very sophisticated and can operate over a wide area in a very short time.
“Being able to alert communities quickly can be all it takes to stop someone falling victim to a bogus caller. It’s a despicable crime, which can lead people to feeling ashamed, scared and vulnerable in their own homes,” he said.
Posing as water workers, as with other utilities, is a favourite ruse of bogus callers.
But there are often clues that they are not what they seem: sometimes they describe themselves as being from the ‘water board’. A United Utilities worker would never describe themselves in this way. It is possible for someone working from United Utilities, or one of its contract partners, to call without an appointment, but it is quite rare.
United Utilities offers a password scheme for pre-planned appointments to give folk added security when answering the door. Visit www.unitedutilities.com/bogus-caller for more information
The company’s top tips to protect yourself from doorstep bogus callers are:
l Keep your door on a chain or lock and look to see who is calling before opening it.
l Ask to see the caller’s identification. He or she can show it to you through the crack in the door or through the letter box. Check that the caller is genuine.
If you’re suspicious, don’t rely on the number on the card, try to verify it from a separate source, such as your water bill or the phone book or internet.
l You are entirely within your rights to have the caller wait outside while you confirm their identity/validity. A genuine caller will not mind waiting.
l It’s ok for you to ask the caller to leave if you are not completely satisfied that they are genuine. If the visit is legitimate the caller can always reschedule the appointment.
l If the caller insists that they need access to your property immediately or before you have carried out the necessary checks; call the police immediately.
If you have any doubts about whether a caller is genuine, do not let them into your home.