SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone has warned elderly and vulnerable people to always identify unexpected callers to their homes.
Mr McGlone re-issued the warning after three men wearing high-vis jackets and purporting to be from NIE attempted to gain access to a house in the Brocagh area of Coalisland, Co Tyrone.
Said the Mid-Ulster MLA: “I would urge everyone to be wary of bogus callers following a spate of incidents which have occurred recently.
“In the latest incident three men wearing high-visibility jackets attempted to gain access to a house in the Brocagh area of Coalisland. The callers claimed to be from NIE and told the householder that they wanted to talk to her about supposed forthcoming work to remove poles on her road.
“The home owner was suspicious of the callers and contacted NIE seeking to verify their identity. It is a cause for concern that NIE were unable to confirm whether they were genuine or not. Despite contacting NIE again the following day, it was not until the next week that someone from NIE rang to inform her that the callers were not from NIE and were, indeed, bogus callers.
“Fortunately, she had not let these men into her home on this occasion. But neither had it been reported to the PSNI at the time, as she wasn’t sure whether the men were genuine employees or not.
“I have written to NIE expressing my concern that it took four days for the query to be responded to, and that the delay caused in this being reported to the PSNI may have hindered the ongoing police investigation. I have asked NIE for clarification of their policy regarding the verification of employee identity for members of the public who call with such a query.
“I urge all companies to keep under constant review their policies regarding the verification of employee identity in such cases. The standard advice given to members of the public who do call should be to not let anyone without an ID badge into their home.
“Incidents of bogus callers are traumatic and unsettling for those targeted and often leave the victims afraid to be alone in their own homes. Legitimate callers should always freely identify themselves, and I would urge everyone to ask for identification before opening their door to unexpected callers.
“If you are uncertain of the identity of a caller then refuse them entry. Call the company they represent and seek confirmation that they are who they claim to be, and report any suspicious callers to the police immediately.
“Neighbours can also do more to ensure their community is safe by keeping an eye out for elderly and vulnerable residents.”