Gas and electricity con men target the elderly
The National Police have warned that organised groups of false gas inspectors are operating in the area and targeting elderly residents as their victims.
The "inspectors" turn up at the homes of their victims announcing that they are from the gas or electricity company and that the inspection, to be carried out by law every five years, is due. The con men charge sums, known to be as high as 400 euros, for their inspection and often steal jewellery when the occpuant of the property is not looking.
Police investigator Francisco España explained that the swindlers normally work in groups of two or three.
"They ring the doorbell announcing that they've come to inspect the gas or electricity installation. However it's not easy to get rid of them, as they are experts in persuading victims to let them through the door, he said.
The detective stresses that the con men scare the elderly residents into thinking that their installation might be faulty and that it could be dangerous. They also threaten that they could be fined due to a false modification in regulations that they do not comply with.
"The problem starts when you give in and let them in," said the detective. They show numerous identification cards and credentials from gas or electricity companies. These are sometimes false or out of date.
With the excuse of inspecting their water heater and its connections, one of the group sets to work, asking the resident to go to the bathroom and turn on the hot tap. This gives the accomplice the chance to move around the property in search for jewellery or cash.
"The amounts taken are often substantial, due to the high value of gold jewellery that elderly people often keep in their homes," said the officer.
As far as the work itself is concerned, the conmen often change the rubber tube that connects the gas cylinder to the water heater. This is an easy job and they often swap one tube for another they have removed from the home of their previous victim, pretending it's a new one.
If the fraud is linked to electricity, the criminals walk around the property with the excuse of checking the system after reports of a surge of power in the area. They have been known to ask for sums of up to 400 euros for this inspection, pointed out Santiago Tedejo, another police detective.
"Sometimes if the victim does not have the amount requested in cash, they reduce the charge, with the excuse that they will return another day for the rest. However they never go back," said Tedejo.
The police officer explained that there are different profiles of the people who belong to these gangs. On one hand there are those who really do work for the authorised firms and, when they visit homes, take the opportunity to steal items of value.
Then there are former employees of the firms who still have their credentials and uniforms. They also know where the most vulnerable victims are as they have been to their homes before. Finally, and least common, there are those who have never been involved in this type of work before.
The people so far arrested in police operations against this fraud have mainly fallen into the 30 to 35 age group. "Their appearance is totally normal; there's nothing suspicious about them source surinenglish