Milwaukee police are warning the public that fake utility and work crews are out this month looking to put the “con” into “construction.”
The Milwaukee Police Department have tied the same group of impostors to at least three burglary cases, each of which occurred last week. The most recent took place around 10:10 a.m. Thursday in the 6900 block of Milwaukee’s West Tesch Avenue.
According to the department, the suspects — clad in high-visibility gear — were out that day posing as construction workers and knocking on doors until they found an empty home. Were it not for a neighbor’s timely intervention, the house probably would have been broken into.
Detectives believe the same suspects are responsible for a burglary in the 2800 block of South 68th Street and an attempted burglary in the 2700 block of South 46th Street. Both incidents took place on May 15.
According to the police, the suspects had been seen wearing neon safety vests and driving a gray pickup truck. Timothy Gauerke, a sergeant at the Milwaukee Police Department, said Tuesday that the search is still on for other suspects.
Although burglaries of this sort are certainly a cause for concern, they are not common, said both Gauerke and Kathy Schulze, a spokesperson for We Energies.
Schulze said that the utility company more often hears complaints about phone scams.
Still, if a customer suspects that someone working on or near their property may not actually be an employee of the utility company, it’s best to make sure, she added.
Schulze said that although direct employees of We Energies will often be working out a marked vehicle, the outside contractors the utility company hires from time to time most likely will not. So the best way to ensure the people at your doorstep or in your yard are who they say they are is to simply ask for more information.
“If somebody is working for our company (or a contractor), they are not going to be offended about questions of their validity,” Schulze said.
Schulze said We Energies is now contending with a sharp increase in scams run over the phone and other sorts of fraudulent activity. on Monday, the company received more than 30 reports of phone scams, she said.
Lisa Schiller, director of investigations and media relations for the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin, said her office tends to receive reports of utility scams once or twice a year. These sorts of scams are most common in summer or winter, when people are more likely to want to run their heat or air conditioning.
The Better Business Bureau recommends residents never let anyone into their home to check electrical wiring, natural-gas pipes or appliances unless an appointment had been scheduled or a repair was previously requested.