Monday 24 September
Some burglars prey on people’s trust and kindness and use distraction as a means of getting into your home.
A distraction burglar / bogus caller's intention is to trick people into allowing them into the property, or create a diversion so an accomplice can sneak in. Because elderly or vulnerable people are often targeted, distraction burglary can have a devastating effect - victims can lose their confidence and peace of mind, as well as money and possessions. Distraction burglars make up a story to get into your home, with only one intention - to steal! They often pose as a tradesmen or officials or ask for your help with something:
- Playing for sympathy - "I've broken down, please can I use your phone?" "I don't feel very well, could I use your toilet or get a glass of water?"
- Lost ball - "I've lost my ball/my son's lost his ball, please could I look for it in your garden?"
- Good Samaritan - "I've just caught someone climbing out of your window, I think they might have stolen something. We need to check your money hasn't been taken."
- Using children - "Hello could my son and I come in to ask you some questions for his school project?"
- Fake emergency - "There's a gas leak/flood in your road, I have to come in to turn off your supply."
- Leaving a note - "I've popped round to see my auntie/friend who lives next door, but she's out at the moment. Please could I borrow a pen and paper to leave a note?"
Some work alone, but often they work in groups of two or more, usually one person will knock at your door with a convincing excuse that seems genuine or urgent. The talker will persuade you to let them into your house and keep you occupied whilst others sneak in and search your house to steal cash and valuables. Distraction burglars can be men, women or children and sometimes a combination, smartly or casually dressed.
Be vigilant of unknown people calling round
If you have any concerns about someone who has called at your door, call police immediately. If you have a chance try to note what they look like and any vehicle they have with them, so police can investigate.
- Don't let anyone into your home that you don't know. Always ask for identification - official visitors won't mind being asked for ID.
- Fit a door chain, if you have a solid front door, fit a wide angle door viewer.
- If you were not expecting anyone, explain that you need to check they are legitimate and ask them to wait outside for a few minutes. Take a note of their name and the company they claim to be working for and then close and lock the door.
- Look up the phone number for the company in a telephone directory or on the internet and check they have an employee of that name and that they are visiting you on legitimate business. Never just take someone's word for it and don't use any phone number they give you to check their identity - you don't know if it's a genuine number.
- If someone is asking for a favour, such as to use your toilet, borrow a pen or retrieve a ball, don't let them in. Instead direct them to a shop, office or public place. It's only natural to want to help someone, but sadly that's one of the techniques often used by distraction burglars.
Friends, neighbours and people who have regular contact with older and vulnerable people can help them to make their lives more secure. Research shows that fewer distraction burglaries are committed in areas where there is a supportive community.
You can help by:
- Keeping an eye on people calling in the area or acting suspiciously
- Noting the registration numbers of vehicles parked in your area for a period of time
- Calling on vulnerable people regularly. If it is not too much trouble, help them keep their front garden tidy and find reliable tradespeople for any maintenance work that really does need to be undertake
- Inform the police to provide information about suspicious people, activity or vehicles, however insignificant it may seem
Remember treat every stranger with caution.
If you are suspicious about a caller inform the police on 101 or in an Emergency dial 999.
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Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org
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