WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Men posing as water company workers carried badges and had a convincing tale to dupe an unsuspecting elderly Long Island couple.
They gained entry into their Wantagh home, claiming people on their block were hospitalized from drinking the water.
Vincent Sottile tells CBS2’s Carolyn Gussoff that he’s mad at himself for letting the bogus utility workers into his house Monday.
He says three men showed up at his door claiming to work for the water department.
They told Vincent and his wife that neighbors were getting sick from iodine contamination.
“They said I have to run all the sinks, the washing machine, to clear out the water for this iodine — so I fell for it,” he said.
Fearful for their water quality, the couple let the men in. They even made sure to check their ID’s, which Vincent called “convincing.”
Two of the men went into their basement while the third headed upstairs.
After they left, Vincent quickly realized they had been scammed when he found $2,000 in cash missing and his checkbook nowhere to be found.
Neighbors on Sarah Drive were disturbed by the brazen rip-off of a trusting elderly couple.
“I think that stinks,” Stan Georgevich said. “Iodine in the water, just to get into the house to rob them.”
Rich D’Atenoh is growing weary of having to be wary of nearly everything these days.
“You get things in the mail, things on the computer — it seems like you have to watch every move you make these days,” he said.
Nassau County Police tell CBS2 it’s a variation on a classic distraction scam.
Lieutenant Richard LeBrun says they’ve dealt with meter men or utility workers posing as the real thing to gain entry into people’s homes in the past.
To prevent yourself from becoming a victim, police advise you check for two forms of identification. If you’re not expecting a visit from a utility company, make sure to call their offices before letting anyone inside.
“What they should do is look for proper identification, although these people did have it, you start there. Take a look out the window before you open the door to see if there’s a truck in the neighborhood. Tell them to wait outside, if they say they’re from the water district, contact the water district,” Nassau County Police Lt. Michael Bitsko told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
If there’s no company vehicle anywhere in sight — that’s an immediate red flag.
Police say these three men simply walked.
Authorities are looking into whether the suspects knew the Sottiles were elderly and targeted them as a result.