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“Look over there!”…

The most common distraction burglary tactics

Distraction burglary is a very common form of burglary and the victims are often, though not always, vulnerable people. Distraction burglary is the name given by police to incidents where victims are literally distracted in some way in order to gain access to their property and steal from them.

Just a few days ago, the Yorkshire Post reported a series of distraction burglaries in North Yorkshire where the perpetrators claimed to have kicked a ball into their victims’ gardens. While they would unwittingly take them into the garden to look for it, an accomplice quickly sneaked in and stole money and belongings.  All the victims were elderly people.

The tactics used can vary from the simple to the elaborate so it’s useful to know what the common ones are so they don’t fool you:

Pretending to be a tradesperson/service provider

Some will claim to be a tradesperson come to conduct a repair or a representative of a service provider who could have a legitimate need to access the property such as a meter reader or someone from a utility company. In the majority of cases, these types of people should never call without an appointment or having informed you in some way in advance. If you are not expecting them then don’t let them in and even if you are, always ask for and check their official ID. Of course, a meter reader would not necessarily have an appointment so make sure you check their ID carefully and if you have any doubts, close the door and call the organisation they claim to be from to double check (look the number up rather than calling one from the ID as this could be fake).

Asking for help

This can be as simple as asking for directions or whether you’ve seen a lost cat to asking for help with an emergency such as claiming an accident has taken place or their car has broken down. Under no circumstances allow them into your home but do offer to call the police if you feel it could be a genuine emergency. When you answer the door, ensure that any other door or access into the house is locked as an accomplice will usually sneak in a back door while you’re occupied at the front.

Offering services/goods

Some will pose as sales people or offer some kind of service such as gardening or home repair services (often claiming that something needs attention). Don’t ever buy anything from people that turn up unsolicited, even if you think they may be genuine. Consider displaying a ‘no cold callers’ sign to dissuade them from knocking and if they do still persist just state that you’re not interested and don’t let them engage you in conversation.

Delivering/collecting a parcel

They may claim to be a neighbour, picking up a parcel that has been left with you (or leaving a parcel for someone else) or that they have a delivery for you. This could just be to keep you talking while someone sneaks in round the back or they may even try and get you to come out of your house to help carry something in. Again, always make sure other doors are closed and locked before you answer the front door and never go out to help bring something in, even if you are expecting something. Any professional delivery service would at least bring a package to the door step.

Attempting to make you go to a certain location

This could be into the garden, as with the ball in the garden example above, or alerting you to something that requires your attention such as a cat trapped in a garage or a problem with your home (sending you off upstairs to investigate a broken window or leaking pipe, for example). If they know where you are (and out of the way), it only takes a few minutes to sneak in and burgle your home. Just politely tell them that you will check on whatever it is that they’ve alerted you to but close the door and lock it before doing so.


Naturally, the majority of callers to your home will be genuine but if you deal with all callers as outlined above, you can protect yourself while also remaining polite and helpful to those with honest intentions. Social media can be a good way of alerting you to suspicious people who may be hanging around in your area. Most areas have local Facebook groups where residents will post when they have witnessed unknown people knocking on a lot of doors or looking into people’s gardens so it could be a good idea to join some.

This ‘look over there’ approach to theft is one of the oldest in the book and yet it is still as prevalent today as ever so don’t be caught out. Remember, while these burglars do tend to be men, use the same caution with a woman or even a child. Also, don’t be fooled by someone who appears to be professional and smartly dressed – they often make an effort to appear more trustworthy and very few dress in balaclavas and polo-necked jumpers!

If you would like information on door chimes, burglar alarm systems, security chains or even intercom systems to help deal with this issue then give us a call on 0345 833 5543 or call into our security shop in Wakefield.