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Fake Social Workers
April 9, 2007 permalink
Among the dangers for parents we now have impostors claiming to be social workers. It is an easy way to spy inside homes or for pedophiles to see some skin or just to terrify neighbors. The current article is from Wyoming. We include an older case of the same scam from Nova Scotia.
Riverton officials looking into alleged DFS impostor
RIVERTON (AP) -- Authorities are investigating reports of a woman posing as a Department of Family Services case worker, entering people's homes and asking questions about their children.
Sada Selvig, supervisor of the DFS social work department in Riverton, said she got a call March 27 from a couple suspicious about such a visit.
"I've just never seen or heard anything like this," Selvig said.
According to Selvig, a tall, middle-aged woman wearing jeans and a blue sweater knocked on the couple's door in northeast Riverton and said she was there to conduct an inspection. The 23-year old woman who answered the door let her in, but became suspicious when the woman began asking about her young children.
The victim and her husband reported the incident to Selvig and to police later that day.
Riverton Police Capt. Milan Vinich said after the couple's complaint circulated around the department, another local woman filed a similar complaint.
"Turns out that the daughter of a police department employee experienced a similar encounter three weeks prior and didn't think much of it until hearing about this account," Vinich said.
Selvig said she knew something was amiss as soon as she heard how the impostor was dressed.
"That was my first tip off," Selvig said. "The woman was wearing jeans. Case workers are not allowed to wear jeans."
Selvig said most DFS employees on home visits are accompanied by a police officer. And although DFS employees don't wear uniforms, they should wear a DFS badge in a visible location and should be driving a state vehicle with an "S" on the license plate.
Selvig also said DFS does not have the authority to remove children from a home, and that anyone who says they have that authority through DFS should be treated with suspicion.
"So if there is a caseworker alone that comes to your home and says they will be taking your child into protective custody and placing them in foster care, you should call law enforcement immediately," she said.
Vinich called the whole situation "disturbing."
"We don't know what the motivation would be," he said.
Source: Casper Star-Tribune
The Nova Scotia case from 2004:
Social worker hoax odd, puzzling
Women posing as staffers stripped kids; 2nd such scam in six months
Halifax RCMP have released composite sketches of two women who falsely claimed to be social workers in order to enter a house, undress children and examine them.
On Wednesday, police issued the drawings put together with help from an Eastern Passage woman who let the two women into her home in late May.
"We're trying to see if the public can recognize these two individuals," RCMP spokesman Sgt. Joe Taplin said Wednesday.
"We tried every other avenue in the investigation and right now we're releasing the composite." RCMP say two women pulled a similar stunt in Timberlea in November, but police aren't sure the two incidents involve the same people.
The police also hope to alert others about the women so no one else is duped into letting the impostors into their home.
In the most recent incident, two women went to a Main Road house on May 28. Claiming to be child protection workers, they identified themselves as Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Geddys. They wore business clothes, carried briefcases and told the woman in the house that they wanted to check the two children there. She let them in.
"They went over and took the clothes off the two children," said Sgt. Taplin. "They checked the children for bruising."
"They played the role right to a T."
The children's mother stood by while the kids were undressed.
The phoney child protection workers eventually left. Afterward, the woman's husband came home and called the Community Services Department after hearing of the situation.
"It was determined at that time that no social workers were sent to the residence and that's when we entered into an investigation," Sgt. Taplin said.
The Eastern Passage woman described one intruder as short and heavy-set, with shoulder-length black hair. The other is taller and thin, with shoulder-length hair.
Sgt. Taplin would not reveal the name of the Eastern Passage woman or the age of her children.
Police are puzzled by the women's motives.
"It's the same as the incident that happened in Timberlea," Sgt. Taplin said.
In both instances, the children's clothes were removed but no pictures were taken, nothing disappeared from the house and the children were not inappropriately touched.
The Timberlea incident took place at the home of Dana Curtis.
In an interview Wednesday, she said she has no idea what the pair were up to, although she found their behaviour to be a little odd.
"They just seemed kind of uppity, snotty, very aggressive.
"They said they wanted to check them (her children) over because they received a complaint about my daughter.
"They asked me to strip them down."
Shocked by the horrible accusation, she readily set out to prove them wrong by disrobing her two toddlers.
After that, the two women went through some closets in the house.
Ms. Curtis has seen the RCMP sketches and said "there were definite similarities" to the two women who came to her home, though she noted one of the suspects looked much thinner than she remembered.
In her case, one of the fake social workers wore a tag identifying herself as Kathy Miller. A subsequent call to the Children's Aid Society showed no one by that name worked there.
Ms. Curtis said her intruders knew beforehand how many children she had.
The ordeal has made her more suspicious. She's reluctant to answer the door and won't let her older child play outside.
She's also curious about the women's intentions.
"There's so many different things they could have wanted. It's just odd."
Terri Green, a Community Services spokeswoman, said people with concerns about visiting social workers should make sure they see some identification that can be checked out before allowing anyone to enter their home.
"All child welfare workers are required to have an identification badge," Ms. Green said.
Although such workers can belong to different agencies, all staff carry cards with their name and that of the agency they work for, she said.
She said parents who aren't sure of the validity of such cards should phone the agency the people claim to work for.
Sgt. Taplin said people can phone police in such a situation, too.
Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to call Halifax RCMP, Halifax Regional Police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.