Password scheme key to crackdown on bogus callers, says water watchdog

16 June 2015

If you are not sure, don’t open the door.

(CCWater expert Janine Shackleton is available for media interviews this week - please call the media team on 0121 345 1005 to arrange)

That’s the advice from the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) which is urging elderly residents and people living alone to register a security password with their water and energy company to help thwart distraction burglars.

Signing up for a password is a simple and effective way to avoid becoming a victim of the nine bogus caller crimes that are reported to police each day in England and Wales. These thieves often pose as water or energy company officials to trick their way into people’s homes before stealing money or valuables.

About a fifth of the 3,193 crimes reported in 2014/15 involved callers claiming to be from a water company, or ‘water board’ which no longer exists. But that only tells part of the story with an estimated 90 per cent of distraction burglaries going unreported because many vulnerable victims – particularly the elderly - feel too embarrassed or scared to report the crime.

Janine Shackleton, Policy Manager at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Distraction burglars callously exploit vulnerable people and have no regard for the distress their actions cause their victims.

“We would urge anyone with family, friends or neighbours who are elderly or living on their own to encourage them to register a password with their water and energy company. It’s simple to set up but will give you peace of mind.”

Every water company offers a password protection service and all a customer needs to do is contact them and register the password they would like them to use when they visit.

Once registered a customer should always ask any doorstep caller claiming to be from their utility company to quote their personal password and provide ID before opening the door. If the caller is unable to do so the customer should call 999.

Customers can find the contact details for their water company, along with details of how to register a password and a list of our top tips at www.ccwater.org.uk/boguscallers/

Energy customers should contact their gas and electricity supplier for details of their password scheme.

The Consumer Council for Water works closely with Operation Liberal, the National Intelligence Unit for Organised Travelling Criminality.

The aim of the operation is to provide a co-ordinated intelligence driven approach in order to:

• Reduce distraction burglaries, rogue trading offences and other doorstep crimes
• Identify organised crime groups involved in distraction burglary and associated travelling criminality
• Identify crime series and support investigations
• Work with partner agencies to deliver crime prevention strategies to improve confidence within our communities

The Consumer Council for Water:

• Was set up in October 2005 to represent consumers in England and Wales
• Costs each water customer an average of 21p per year
• Gained over £1billion from water companies in reduced prices and extra investments
• Has helped more than 300,000 customers with complaints or enquiries about water and sewerage services
• Has to date secured over £20 million in compensation and rebates for customers
• Is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Government
• Has a committee for Wales and four regional committees in England
• Website: www.ccwater.org.uk
• Follow us on Twitter - @WaterWatchdog

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