Distraction burglary and how to prevent it
Distraction burglary is pretty much as the name suggests; a method of gaining access to your home by distracting you in some way. We’ve already posted about insecure burglary, which is where a burglar sneaks in via an unsecured door or window, but distraction burglary is a bit more blatant as the perpetrator will often engage directly with you to gain access or allow an accomplice to gain access.
The most common method is for one person to engage you at the front door while an accomplice sneaks in via another entrance but they can also operate alone, convincing you that they have a right to access your property by posing as a tradesman or official (eg from the Council, emergency services, utility provider etc). Some employ more audacious methods such as in a recent incident where an elderly man was duped by a woman screaming in the street (rushing out to help her as a good citizen would). Her partner then entered the property and stole money from his wallet.
They will often target those they consider most vulnerable: the elderly or frail, those living alone, people with disabilities or those where they can see there is an easy alternative access. The average age of a distraction burglary victim is 78, 74% live alone and 77% are women. Becoming a victim of this type of crime can be particularly upsetting because of the direct engagement and the betrayal of trust, making them feel foolish or knocking their confidence.
There are, however, lots of things that you can do to prevent such an incident. These are our best tips to reduce your risk of a distraction burglary:
⇒ Ask to see the ID of anyone who claims to be from an organisation such as the Council, Police etc or a tradesperson. Genuine officials will not object to you closing the door on them while you check their identity by calling the organisation they claim to be from. Consider looking the number up yourself as a bogus caller could have fabricated the ID card.
⇒ Don’t allow tradespeople to enter your property if they don’t have a pre-arranged appointment. If they claim to have made one with someone else, call them to verify.
⇒ Before you answer the door, make sure any other doors are locked as the typical method of entry will be to distract you at one door while someone sneaks in another insecure door or window.
⇒ A spy hole or a chain will allow you to check who’s calling before you fully open the door.
⇒ Consider installing a CCTV system. These people will choose their targets based on vulnerability and risk. They are unlikely to risk being captured on video plus you can see who is at the door before you even answer it.
⇒ Display a sign requesting ‘No Cold Callers’ on your front door. It makes you look less likely to be taken in by an imposter and will also help discourage time wasters. A ‘No Junk Mail’ sign will also help to reduce the number of people approaching your property who may be using a guise of delivering leaflets to identify potential targets.
⇒ Be especially vigilant at key times when there is likely to be an increase in callers such as Christmas, Halloween and during election campaigns. This can give them the opportunity to ‘hide in plain sight’
⇒ Don’t leave easy-to-carry valuables close to doors or windows. Distraction burglars know that they won’t hold your attention long so they will want to be in and out quickly, grabbing items that are within easy reach. Try not to keep a lot of cash in the house as well. (A safe can be really useful for keeping valuable belongings and money out of harm’s way).
⇒ If you are expecting a tradesperson to call to do a job you can request that they give a password that you set for them. This way you know that they are genuine.
While distraction burglary is mainly targeted at the elderly, anyone can potentially be taken in as these people can be very convincing and human nature is generally pretty trusting. It’s a sad fact of life that we must exercise caution but following the tips above will definitely help.