Advice on avoiding becoming a victim of distraction burglary and bogus contractors
Distraction burglary is when someone tries to gain entry to a home or premises through deceit or distraction. For example, claiming they are from the Water Board to read a meter or talking to you at the front door while their accomplice gains entry through a back door. Read up on how to prevent yourself or someone you know being a victim.
Preying upon vulnerable people is particularly disturbing and we need you to consider your relatives, neighbours and friends who may be at risk as they may not be able to take preventative measure themselves.
There are some key principles to remember:
STOP - don’t open the door
CHAIN - put the chain securely on the latch
CHECK – ask for identification and verify this by calling the company an individual represents
You can also use the following check list to reduce the chances of a distraction burglary:
- Overall appearance of property: does the property have “tell-tale” signs about the occupier? Is the outside of the property in a poor state of repair or garden overgrown or unkempt?
Solution: try to arrange for the garden to be cleaned up and minor property repairs to be carried out. This will stop the house standing out in the neighbourhood.
- Awareness of callers: is the occupier able to see who is calling before opening the door?
Solution: if the doorstep is not overlooked from a window, fit a door-viewer (or door-scope if occupier has sight difficulty). Ideally, a low cost combination viewing/communication device will allow the householder to speak with the caller without opening the door.
- Security devices: can the occupier physically maintain control at the door?
Solution: fit a door chain or door bar. This will enable the occupier to maintain control and prevent a caller from pushing past them if they initially refuse entry. Older and vulnerable people living alone should routinely keep the rear door locked.
- Doorstep etiquette: do you know what to do when an unexpected caller knocks on the door?
Solution: always make sure the door chain/door bar is on before opening the door. Check you are following the stop-chain-check procedure next time you call at the house and make people always show their ID badges.
A ploy used by unscrupulous contractors is to arrive unannounced and suggest you need immediate work doing on your property or garden. Usually they target vulnerable people such as the elderly, and more often than not they’re neither qualified nor experienced to do what they say they will. Don’t take chances, a reputable builder or gardener won’t approach you in such a way.
Choosing a firm to work on your home or garden is a decision that shouldn't be taken quickly just because the person on your doorstep sounds convincing and stresses urgency. Our advice is not to agree to anything that an unannounced caller suggests.
Let a stranger into your home
Make a snap decision
Pay a deposit
Agree to have work done without a second opinion
Buy things you don't need
Listen to scare stories.
Call the police if the caller refuses to leave.
What if you need work doing?
Even if you need the work doing, we strongly advise that you get a second opinion before making a commitment.
We suggest that you:
- Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations
- Contact professional organisations for a list of certified tradespeople in the district
- Make sure the caller has more than a mobile telephone number
- Ask for a business card and check the telephone number and address
- Clearly indicate the job you want doing
- Insist on a written estimate
- Ask for a written guarantee
What if the caller says they are from the Council?
Normally we make an appointment if work needs doing. If a caller claims to be from the Council, ask for:
- Their name and the council and department they work for
- Their Buckinghamshire Council identification card
- Then telephone to confirm their identity: Buckinghamshire Council on 01296 585858 or on 01296 395000.
If you are suspicious, refuse them entry and call the police. A genuine contractor won't mind you checking.