Police are looking for burglars who posed as utility workers to distract an elderly couple while they ransacked their house, and authorities are cautioning residents to avoid opening the door for anyone claiming to be a worker who hasn't called ahead amid a spate of similar robberies.
In the most recent case, one of the two suspects went to the couple's home on North Cottage Avenue in Valley Stream Monday evening and knocked on the door, authorities say. When the couple answered, the man told them that he was with the water department and needed to check the water pressure in the basement.
When the man took the couple to the basement, a second suspect came into the house, police say. The utility impostor somehow communicated with the burglar upstairs as he rifled through the house, stealing cash. They left about 15 minutes later.
The couple discovered they had been burglarized the next day and called the water company, which said it didn't have anyone working in the area.
Monday's burglary was the latest in a string of similar schemes. Utilities and law enforcement agencies have been warning homeowners to watch out for the theft routine, and are asking residents not to let anyone claiming to be a worker in their house if they don't call ahead.
"Please don't let them in the house," said Nassau Inspector Kenneth Lack. "Talk to them through the closed door, talk to them through an open window and ask to see photo ID."
Safeguarding homes could also be as simple as knowing what utility workers wear, according to Brian Bruce of NY American Water, the company serving the Valley Stream neighborhood. Bruce says his workers wear a company shirt, and the service workers wear a blue uniform that has the company logo on it. They also drive company vehicles.
Neighbor George Catalanotto said he's watching for the scam artists as part of Valley Stream's civilian patrol.
"It adds to the need for all of us as neighbors to be vigilant," said Catalanotto.
Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS.
-- Greg Cergol contributed to this report