A recent notice to beware of people impersonating V.I. Water and Power Authority workers to rob homes was apparently prompted by a text and social media hoax, and no one has reported any such incident actually happening, according to the V.I. Police Department.
Officials say there have been other hoax reports in the past and the trend appears to be increasing.
The VIPD and WAPA issued a notice Wednesday warning Virgin Islanders that WAPA is not asking anyone to come into the house and to call police if anyone claims to need to get into the house on behalf of WAPA.
According to VIPD Public Information Officer Glenn Dratte, there have not been any reports to police of incidents of this actually happening. Instead, police and WAPA were responding to multiple calls about anonymous claims this was happening, sent by text and posted on social media.
The details of the alleged scam are extremely similar, down to some of the wording, of one that has been circulating for several years. According to the hoax-busting website Hoaxslayer, the first known version of this message appeared in Dubai in 2012, with criminals posing as Dubai Electricity and Water Authority or Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority workers. (See Related Links below)
But as Hoaxslayer’s account points out, people have robbed homes by entering under false pretenses, so even though this notice may be a hoax, it is still wise to be cautious and see some identification before letting them in. And the VIPD also takes the view that it is better to be cautious, Dratte said Thursday.
"WAPA forwarded questions they had gotten to the police chief on St. Thomas and he forwarded it to me and we investigated to find if it had any validity," Dratte said.
"We confirmed there had not been any incidents reported but that this was out there, so just as a safety precaution we decided to use it as an opportunity to say, ‘Look, don’t let someone in if they are claiming to be from WAPA.’ … Better safe than sorry," Dratte said.
Hoaxes like these seem to be a growing trend.
"We are starting to see more of these," Dratte said. One involved someone selling jewelry and another was about an alleged rape on St. Thomas that does not match any police report, he said.