Commissioner warns residents of door-to-door scam artists

Commissioner warns residents of door-to-door scam artists

Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2008 10:14 pm
By: Leslie Newman

By LESLIE NEWMAN Home invaders impersonating utility or government workers may be attempting to get inside your home to steal your cash and valuables. Unfortunately, impersonating utility workers is one of the fraudulent tools used by thieves to gain such access. If you didn’t call for service, don’t allow them in. Unless you called and requested the service, you should always take steps to verify the identity and authenticity of a person claiming to be a utility worker before allowing entry to your home — even if they have what appears to be an official identification, badge or letter that appears to be legitimate. These scammers may try to engage you in a conversation at your front door or to otherwise distract you so that an accomplice can burglarize your home (they even use children or lost pet tactics to gain your trust). A recently reported door-to-door scam in Middle Tennessee had men posing as utility workers who asked to see a fuse box. The real purpose was to gain entry into the home to commit burglary. Other versions of this ploy include having someone ask for a drink of water, to use the restroom or to use the telephone. These scam artists are professionals who make a living stealing cash and jewelry from homes after they gain entry. Be aware of those attempting to invade their homes or gain access to their personal information. Here are some tips to avoid these and other scams: • Door-to-door — Unless you called requesting the service, call your utility company to verify the identity of anyone claiming to represent the utility company. Legitimate calls will usually have an official notification or are there at your request when it is necessary to come into your home. And it is a good idea to keep your doors, including garage doors, locked while working in your yard. • Mail — If you have what looks to be an official letter from a utility company seeking personal information, call your company at its normal number and verify the authenticity of the letter. Be especially wary of something you would not normally receive. Often these letters look real but have a different address or phone number for you to send money or information. • Telephone — Don’t give out personal information over the phone — even to someone claiming to represent your utility company — unless you initiated the call. Particularly guard your Social Security number, credit card number and bank account numbers. Anytime anyone seeks this information, it should send up a red warning flag. • Internet — If you are making payments online, be sure you have properly working security software installed on your computer. If you are a victim of one of these scams, you need to report it to your local law enforcement agency. For more information, contact the Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Division of Consumer Affairs at www.tn.gov/consumer or 1-800-342-8385. Leslie Newman is commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Published in The Messenger 7.31.08

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