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February 2014 Column - Warning to residents about imitation utility workers


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Legislator Ted Morton (R-Cheektowaga) announces that the Erie County Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department will hold two focus group sessions to gather public opinion on Como Lake Park as the department works to update the Parks Master Plan.

Legislator Ted Morton (R-Cheektowaga) announces that a measure has been passed unanimously by the County Legislature urging New York State to enact new policies to encourage living organ donation. With the rates of living donors dropping, several policies including donor reimbursement, tax deductions for lost wages, and long term follow up medical care for donors has been recommended to help rebuild the donor base in New York State.

Erie County Legislator Ted Morton (R-Cheektowaga), with the support of community partners, announces his 3rd  annual Food Drive to benefit the Alden-Marilla Community Food Pantry and Tri-Community Food Pantry. Non-perishable goods will be collected from Monday, Nov. 21 through Monday, Dec. 12.

It’s that time of the year again when the Legislature reviews the County Executive’s budget proposal. The Legislature recently concluded its budget hearings with every county department and elected office where we reviewed spending requests.

At the Erie County Legislature’s annual budget hearings, Legislator Ted Morton (R-Cheektowaga) called on the Erie County Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department to submit a budget request to fund dredging of Como Lake as part of next year’s Capital Projects Budget.

A few weeks ago I was watching the news and saw an unsettling report about three men who posed as Erie County Water Authority workers to gain access into a woman’s home. While one man distracted the homeowner the other ransacked her home. They took her personal belongings and invaded her security. They then attempted the same scheme at different homes in several towns.

This scam has been going on for years, and it's not just the Water Authority that is used as a cover. Heating and electric companies also have had their name used by these criminals to enter homes under false pretenses. To help residents protect themselves, I am reminding residents what they need to be aware of. The ECWA has developed a webpage dedicated to clearly demonstrating what a worker will be wearing, driving and what identification they will be carry. As a tagline, the ECWA reminds residents, “Insist on Identification.”

I am sharing this information with resident on my website and Facebook page, as well as distributing an informational poster, so residents are familiar with ECWA logos and IDs. Most importantly, I also included the phone numbers residents can call to confirm that a worker was sent to their home. Should you have any questions or concerns, immediately call ECWA Customer Service at 849-8484 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or ECWA's Emergency Dispatch at 685-8235 after 5 p.m. and on weekends to confirm if an ECWA employee should be at your premises.

This is a critical piece of the effort to stop this scam as the ECWA dispatch center can quickly tell a resident if a worker should or shouldn’t be at their home.

Many thieves prey on elderly residents, as was the case recently, creating concern about their home utilities, convincing them there is a serious reason they need to be there. To help educate our older population, I have partnered with the senior centers in my district to meet with residents and handout the helpful informational sheet. They can take this poster home and reference it quickly to be prepared if someone knocks on their door.  

Please download the poster by CLICKING HERE, and share with neighbors, family members or friends. If you are a member of a community organization, please consider distributing the poster to your members. Simply alerting residents to the existence of this scam could help them feel confident to ask a worker to wait while they confirm their authenticity. 

The most important piece of information on the poster is a reminder that if residents are ever unsure or uneasy, they should close their door and contact authorities. It is better to be safe.

I believe our local utility companies do a good job educating the public about their company policies concerning home visitations. I am happy to work with them to deliver this message so we can stop scams like the one that happened to that unfortunate resident. It is terrifying to think a criminal was in one of our neighbor's homes, in the middle of the day.

I want to encourage anyone who has a question or concern to please contact me at 858-8856 or by emailing ted.morton@erie.gov