In a stement, the company says that the message wrongly claims the two men are saying they work for South East Water and are requesting entry to homes to check internal taps for leaks – but in fact the people in the photograph are film stars from Home Alone!
In the meantime, South East Water says the message behind the joke is a serious one as bogus callers do use the company’s name to attempt to gain unauthorised access to homes.
People are being reminded to thoroughly check the identity of any unexpected doorstep callers claiming to be from or working on behalf of South East Water before letting them carry out work on their property or letting them inside.
One action that elderly residents and people living alone can do is to register with South East Water for a security password which will be used by anyone from the company needing entry into the person’s home.
Signing up for a password is a simple and effective way to avoid becoming a victim of this kind of crime.
Steve Andrews, Head of Service Management at South East Water, said: “Sometimes our staff or contractors working on our behalf do have to make unplanned visits, but if there is no security password in place, they will always be happy to wait while customers check their credentials.
“In addition our staff or contractors will always show their photographic identity cards before asking to be let in, be in the company’s uniform and have a liveried van parked nearby.
“It is worth bearing in mind that if there had been a serious leak then the house probably would have been without water or be experiencing low water pressure and we would only be there if the resident had actually called us out.”
Many distraction crimes reported to the police involve callers claiming to be from a water company, or ‘Water Board’, a description no longer used by all British water companies.
It is known that a number of distraction burglaries go unreported because many vulnerable victims – particularly the elderly – feel too embarrassed or scared to report the crime.
South East Water’s advice is to:
· Register for a security password on 0333 000 0002
· Make sure the back door is always locked before going to the front door
· Put on the door chain if there is one before opening the door
· Check to see who is at the door by looking through a window or spy hole
· Look for an identity card, a uniform and a liveried van
· Check the person’s identity via the bogus caller telephone line on 0800 519 2222
· If still suspicious telephone the police - better to be safe than sorry.