Police: Look out for thieves posing as city employees

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan communities are warning their residents after a string of thefts where the suspects pretend to be from the city to check your water but then steal from your home.

On the afternoon of December 12 in Holland Township, a 91-year-old homeowner opened his door to a man who identified himself as a utility worker who was there to check the home’s water for lead. He threatened a “large fine” if the homeowner did not let him inside, Ottawa County deputies say.

The man made his way inside the home, turning on the sinks to “check the water.” He left after several minutes, having never actually checked the water, the homeowner told deputies. The sheriff’s office believes while the 91-year-old man was with the “worker” in the bathroom, a second suspect entered the home and stole cash from a bedroom.

“I believe this was to try to cover up sound, make sound to keep the victim busy,” explained Captain Jacob Sparks with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.

Both suspects left the area in an unmarked white pick-up truck before the homeowner realized he had been scammed.

Similarly, a month later, Grandville police posted a warning in its Facebook page about two men driving a gray Ford F-150 truck who were posing as employees of the city’s water department, claiming they needed to check the water quality of homes. One suspect distracts the homeowner while the other looks into purses and wallets, stealing money. The city had two reports as of Jan. 13.

Wyoming police posted a similar notice on Jan. 17, saying a group of people posed as city employees offering home repair services. Once inside, they stole from residents.

Although the city of Walker has not had any reported instances, the police department warned its citizens of the trend Monday.

Each affected city has clarified that any legitimate employees will be in city-issued vehicles marked with the logo. In Grandville, city employees drive red trucks. All employees carry identification, and many wear clothing with the city logo on it.

According to Sparks, another red flag homeowners should be on the lookout for when they are not expecting any services at the time imposters show up.

“Typically, there’s some sort of warning given ahead of time, letting people know — ‘Hey, we’re going to be out reading meters, or we’re going to be out changing water meters, or we’re going to be testing water,’ or whatever the case may be — in the mail, or by email or by telephone, or whatever,” Sparks explained. “Not just a random stop-by and then talk their way into their homes.”

If you are ever unsure if someone is a legitimate city employee, do not let them into your home and call your police department.

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