BELLEVILLE, NJ — Officials in Belleville are describing an apparent scheme targeting homeowners as aggressive and fraudulent .
Salespeople are knocking on doors, claiming to work for the township. According to police, the salespeople conduct bogus water tests and later urge the homeowner to buy thousands of dollars worth of water filters.
“They test three or four vials of water,” explained Det. Lt. John McAloom of Belleville PD. “They put some drops in and then they say ‘oh you have high lead, you have high chlorine, you have high fluoride.’”
Authorities were first tipped off about the sales calls when two residents - who happened to work for the town - got a knock on their doors about water filters.
A sting operation set up last week has led to at least one summons for soliciting without a permit.
Investigators believe Spanish-speaking homeowners who are new to the neighborhood are specifically being targeted.
“We do not believe it was random, that they just happen to show up at that door because the first initial conversation began in Spanish,” Lt. McAloom said.
Mayor Michael Melham says he’s outraged by the scheme investigators believe is an attempt to capitalize on recent concerns over the town’s water supply which shares a similar water infrastructure to neighboring Newark, currently going through its own water crisis.
“They are using the state, the county, Newark and even my name directly saying that we’re actually asking residents to participate in this program and we are certainly not," Melham said.
Police in Belleville are urging residents who do come across one of these sales people - whether it be at their doorstep or on the phone - to call them immediately.