St. Petersburg Police warn residents to look out for criminals posing as water department employees

Scammers posing as city water department employees

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - "I was very upset," said St. Pete resident Ruby Lynch.

Lynch thought everything was on the up and up when a man knocked at her door and said he was from the city's water department.

"He sounded very legitimate, yea, with the water department, uh huh," Lynch recalled.

The man said he was there with another employee to check her hot water pipes.

"Then he talked himself into the house.  One guy came in, he wanted to check the water.  He kept checking it, then there was another guy came and he sent him into the bathroom," she said.

The problem was, the city's Water Resources Department hadn't sent anyone to Ruby's house.  And what happened next caught Ruby's attention.

"He was laying on my kitchen floor and had me knocking on the hot water heater with a fork. I knew that something's suspicious then," Lynch remembered.

Mike Puetz with St. Petersburg Police says the department is all too familiar with the scam.

"We seem to see it every year, right around this time, actually," he said. 

Police say the criminals work together to gain entry into a home.  Once inside, they steal money and other valuables.

They have a very glib tongue.  They can convince people to do a lot of things that common sense would tell them not to do," Puetz said.    

Lynch said that her common sense finally kicked in too.

"I just finally told them to get out of the house.  I knew it wasn't right.  And they left without saying a word," she said.

Police believe the same men gained access to a different home several miles away.  That homeowner also became suspicious and the crooks quickly fled. 

City Water Resource workers will always be in marked vehicles, dressed in city shirts and wearing an ID badge.  Police say they will never ask to enter the home.

Puetz warns people to stay alert and be on the lookout for clues that the person is legitimate.

"Anybody that's asking to get inside their house, whether they claim to be from the water department or cable or anything along that line, that's not right and they need to give us a call so we can check it out," said Puetz.

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