Four elderly people in the area, two in their nineties, have been targeted by bogus callers carrying out distraction burglaries.
B31 Voices received a report from a reader on Twitter that several homes in Meadow Brook Road, Northfield were targeted yesterday by men claiming to be from Severn Trent Water.
West Midlands Police confirmed that four addresses were targeted. Cash was taken from the purse of an 89-year-old woman in The Roundabout, Northfield, at 11am; around £170 from a 92-year-old woman in Linden Road, Bournville, an hour later; and more money, a stamp collection and jewellery from the address in Meadow Brook Road, Northfield.
The bogus officials made a fourth unwanted call to a 93-year-old lady in Bournbrook Road, Selly Oak, where they took several hundred pounds – but were ushered out by the brave pensioner, who threatened to call police, before they could rummage through other rooms in the house. Police believe others may have been affected but may not yet be aware that possessions have been taken and urge anyone who thinks they were targeted to contact them.
The two men are described as being white, in their 40s or early 50s and possibly spoke with Irish accents. Both were dressed in suits with one wearing a light blue shirt.
West Midlands Police say that patrols have been increased in a bid to identify and arrest the suspected offenders and released the following advice:
- Check to see who it is by using the spy hole if you have one, or look through a front window
- Always put the chain on before you open the door. Door chains are available from most DIY stores and High Street outlets for as little as £2.
- If you don’t know the caller, ask to see their identity card. Check it carefully, and keep the chain on while you do this. Genuine callers won’t mind if you close the door while you check. If in doubt, telephone the organisation to verify they are genuine by using a number from the telephone directory and not a number given to you by the caller.
- Bogus callers sometimes work in pairs. Beware of one distracting you while the other steals your property. The best practice is not to let them in.
- Always make sure any rear or side access doors are locked before opening the front door.
- Utility companies operate password schemes whereby, if you register a password with them, any caller purporting to be from that company will give you that password if they need to enter your property, otherwise don’t let them in. For more information contact your service provider.
- If in doubt, keep them out. Phone the police if you are worried on 101 and in an emergency dial 999.
“On each occasion the men have claimed to be from the water board and were doing pipe-work checks ahead of carrying out work at a neighbouring property.
“The men were well-dressed – wearing shirts and suits – in order to convince residents they were genuine. It appears one knocked the door and talked his way inside and, with the residents occupied, his accomplice has sneaked in moments later.
“It may be they’ve targeted other homes but the victims are unaware they’ve had anything stolen or were turned away at the door – I’d like to hear from anyone else who believes they’ve spoken to the pair or seen them. They can call me on the 101 police number.”
Det Sgt Thompson urged residents not to allow unsolicited callers in their home. She added: “The classic line of ‘if in doubt, keep them out’ still applies – these men didn’t attempt to show any kind of ID, and that’s the first rule to protect yourself against bogus officials.
“Residents should demand to see ID and always make independent checks by phoning the company they claim to be representing – find the number from the phone book or online, don’t call a number they provide as it could be an accomplice at the other end of the line.
“If in any doubt, call police on 101 to confirm the callers are actual officers. Don’t let anyone in unless you’re convinced they’re genuine.
“Distraction burglars are particularly cowardly and prey on the most vulnerable members of society, often the elderly. Please take time to visit elderly neighbours and if you do witness anything suspicious contact the police straight away.”
If you have any information about these incidents, please contact West Midlands Police Det Sgt Kay Thompson on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
Cover image by Ian Britton on Flickr