By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – June 29, 2016 – Comment

Some of us may be old enough to remember Saturday Night Live’s infamous “Land Shark” skit, and the rest have probably seen it on the “classics reel,” as it remains one of the most cherished comedy bits of all times. And while it still rings funny for any generation, unfortunately, it also rings true for hundreds of victims of impostor utility workers.

In the skit, the hungry shark attempts to get inside people’s homes by announcing itself to be a plumber, candy-gram deliverer and the like. I can’t remember anyone in the skit asking for I.D., and perhaps that wouldn’t have stopped a clever land shark anyway. Today, “hungry” criminals are using a similar technique, posing as utility workers making a house call in order to gain entrance to people’s homes where they then rob the owner and sometimes engage in violent activities as a means to an end. Some of the disguised “utility workers” also attempt to victimize people by asking for cash to cover an overdue bill.

This investigative report by ABC demonstrates just how easily and inexpensively these criminals can create their disguise and gain entrance into people’s homes… and wallets.

It’s an unfortunate epidemic across the United States, but thankfully community and government groups, as well as utility companies are taking action to stop it. For example, in Pennsylvania law enforcement, utility and public service groups have formed the Keystone Alliance to Stop Utility Imposters to generate awareness of the problem and educate the public on how to protect themselves.

Asking for I.D. is always a first step in situations with utility workers wanting to come into your home. Here are several key tips to help avoid getting into a dangerous and costly situation with a utility worker imposter:

Ask for Photo I.D. Never let a person claiming to be a utility worker into your home without identification that leaves you 100% positive he or she is who they say they are.

  1. Even with I.D. look for the truck. Utility workers should travel in company-branded vehicles.
  2. Be suspicious. It’s very rare for a utility worker to simply pop by, so if you haven’t been notified ahead of time or have a scheduled visit don’t let the person into your home.
  3. Don’t leave the impostor alone should he/she gain entrance into your home. A common tactic by these criminals is to ask the home owner to go to another room in the house to check a faucet, meter, etc. Then, once alone the imposter will grab valuables and make a quick exit.
  4. Lock yourself in and call for help. If at any time you sense a supposed utility worker is becoming angry or violent – whether outside your house or inside – close and lock the door or get yourself into a locked room as quickly as possible and call the police.

It’s important to be aware, be prepared and take steps to protect yourself – even if that means potentially turning away a real utility worker. They’ll be happy to reschedule for another day.