MIAMI-DADE COUNTY – The Call Christina team partnered with the Miami-Dade Police Department and Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department to alert utility consumers about the dangers posed by fraudsters pretending to be utility workers.
"People will come dressed up professionally to try to convince you in order to get into your home," Miami-Dade police Officer Mo Morales said. "We have had quite a few of them and, unfortunately, the elderly are being targeted."
"Rarely does the water department go into people's homes," explained Adriana Lamar of Miami-Dade Water and Sewer. "Everything we do, we do outside the home."
In 2015, on Southwest 128th Street off U.S. Highway 1, detectives said two men posing as utility workers roughed up and robbed an elderly woman. Police are still looking for those men.
Also in 2015, a 94-year-old woman was robbed in her Fort Lauderdale home by men police said were posing as construction workers.
"People just open the door and that's their avenue into the residence," Morales said.
Investigative reporter Christina Vazquez put homeowners to the test. Dressed in a hard hat and safety vest while carrying a clipboard, Vazquez went door-to-door in one southwest Miami-Dade County neighborhood pretending to work for Miami-Dade Water and Sewer.
She claimed there has been a water main break nearby and that she needed to enter the home to check on the quality and clarity of the water.
Within seconds of the first three homes she knocked on, each one opened the door and let her right in.
Lamar and police officers watched from nearby vehicles.
"I was surprised how many people let you in their house," Lamar said. "In two, three seconds and in you went, no questions asked."
"Everybody she has knocked on the door has opened the door and let her in," Morales said. "They feel if you come dressed like that you may be official enough."
At the moment the person at the door granted Vazquez entrance, she disclosed she was in fact a reporter and Morales and Lamar approached to share valuable safety lessons.
Just one person asked Vazquez for identification. After Morales and Lamar congratulated her for asking for ID, Flava Nunes stated, "God bless you guys. Keep doing it. I hope you keeping this and teaching the community. Good job!"
Keep in mind that fraudsters may also pretend to be from FPL or a cable company, the take-away here is to never let anyone into your home until you confirm their identity.
"I want them to think that everyone is a threat and I want them to verify that those individuals are actually workers out here doing the job and not someone that is going to take advantage of them," Morales said.
Florida Power & Light has also received reports from consumers who said someone tried to gain entry to their home posing as an FPL employee.
According to FPL’s website:
Please remember that all FPL employees carry a photo identification badge and our contractors have a contractor badge or can provide a work request number and an FPL supervisor name and number. Ask to see it and call us to verify, if you are in doubt.
Also, it’s important to remember that FPL will not:
- Come into your home without making arrangements ahead of time
- Solicit personal information over the telephone, unless you initiated the contact
- Send emails threatening to close your account if you do not take the immediate action of providing personal information
- Send employees to your home offering cash refunds on deposits or electric charges. We either credit your account or mail a check to your electric service address