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Crime and victims

Bogus callers

Most people who call at your home will be genuine. But sometimes, people turn up unannounced with the intention of tricking their way into your home to steal your valuables and money.

It's a common scenario: somebody knocks on your door and tells you their car has broken down, and asks to use your phone to call the recovery service. Whilst inside your home, they distract you and steal your belongings.The only problem? It's a scam.

Variations on the theme

There are dozens of scams like this in operation at any given time. There's the 'ran out of petrol and left my wallet at home' scam. The 'my mother's sick and I need money for a cab' scam. The list is as endless as the human imagination.

Scamsters can be endlessly creative. Pushing their cars up the street, for example, and stopping passers-by asking for cash for petrol. Then getting in their perfectly working cars and driving away.

Distraction burglary

The more dangerous and complex scams involve people pretending to be from utilities companies and asking for access to homes.

There are around 12,000 reported incidents of 'distraction burglary' every year - when callers get into a person's home through false pretences, and then steal cash or valuables while the home-owner is distracted.

They often work in pairs - with one person distracting the resident while the other is rifling through their belongings.

Be cautious

When a stranger rings your bell, be cautious. Don't let anybody in unless you are expecting them. Representatives of the water, gas and electric companies rarely make house calls without appointments.

If there is a real gas or water emergency, police and firefighters are likely to be present.

There are some simple precautions you can take to help ensure you don't become a victim:

  • talk to people through the door, rather than opening it when they knock
  • ask who they are before opening the door, then keep the door on the chain until you've seen their identification 
  • make sure your back door is closed and locked before answering your front door - thieves have been known to work in pairs, with one entering through the back while the other knocks on the front door

Ask for identification

If anybody comes to your door for legitimate purposes, they will have an I.D. card from the organisation they represent. Before you even speak to them, ask to see it, and keep the door on the chain while you look it over.

If you need glasses in order to read the card, close and lock the door before going to get them. Never leave the door open and unattended.

Lock, Stop, Chain, Check

The Government's Lock, Stop, Chain, Check (new window) campaign provides more security information for dealing with bogus callers.

To learn more, contact your local council, social services office or Age Concern (new window) centre. They can advise you on installing door viewers, chains and personal alarms, all of which can make you safer when a stranger calls.

See also

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