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Suspicions don't always bear out


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POSTED: Thursday, June 25, 2009

Recent news reports about women being talked into letting strangers into their homes and then being robbed prompted me to write about my own experience.

The first week of March, I received a call from a man who said that he was an Oceanic Cablevision employee and that he had gotten my unlisted phone number from the security office of my downtown condominium. He explained that he needed access to my home because the resident in a unit above me was having trouble with his TV and the cable wiring in my unit might be the cause.

I was suspicious of this man for the following reasons: He had not made his request through the management office of my condominium; I assumed that the condo's security office was not supposed to release the phone numbers of residents; the contact number he gave me did not resemble Oceanic's listed numbers; and his explanation for needing access sounded like the sort of story a person with ulterior motives would fabricate.

Even though this man said he needed immediate access, I replied that I could not make any arrangements with him at that time. Some days later, my doorbell rang and I opened the door to find him and another man standing in the hallway.

In the interim, I had tried to contact Oceanic. I e-mailed the company via its Web site, describing the situation, but received no response. I was alarmed that the company was not concerned that someone might be impersonating one of their employees, but I waited a day, then called Oceanic. I spoke to a woman, giving her the contact number the man had given me. She put me on hold for a few minutes, then returned, saying that she would talk to the man's foreman because he should not have been contacting people this way. She did not, however, confirm that he was an Oceanic employee.

I also spoke to a woman in my condo's management office and was told that the call was suspicious and that the security office and all other staff of the building are prohibited from giving out information about residents. After a few hours, the woman called me back and said that the man was indeed an Oceanic employee and that I should make arrangements with him to let him into my home. I have no idea how she verified who he was, and I remained suspicious.

This urban tale has a happy ending, fortunately. After the two men entered my home, I stayed on guard, keeping a wary eye on them. They quickly got to work, however, and after several minutes, it became clear that their reason for being there was legitimate. The man I had spoken to was quick, efficient and personable, and the two left after about 20 minutes.

Would I therefore let another stranger into my home?

No, I wouldn't. In fact, the next time I will be even more careful and vigilant than I was this time.