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Distraction Burglary – Top tips to avoid and stay safe

May 29, 2014

Sussex police have recently issued a warning about Distraction burglary following a recent spate in the Brighton and Hove areas, but what is distraction burglary, and how can you best protect yourself against such threats.

Distraction burglary is a form of burglary where an intruder tricks their way into a property with the sole purpose of removing personal items from the property.  Often a pair of criminals will work together with one befriending the occupants while another removes the items, the elderly and disabled are most vulnerable to distraction burglary.  Offenders will often use an elaborate story to enter a house, often posing as officials or requesting your help with something.

Common lies used by distraction burglars

  • I need to read your meter
  • We are the police, we have a caught a burglary with some cash down the road, we need to check your money is safe
  • I have broken down, please can I use your phone
  • Could my son and I ask you a few questions for his school project
  • I have come to see my relative who lives next door, but they are out, can I borrow a pen to leave a note
  • I am from the water board, we need to turn your water off as there is a leak down the road

If you are not sure who is calling, then do not open the door, a side window or door viewer could be used to check who is calling without the need to open your front door.  If you do need to open the door, then always leave the chain attached while you find out who is calling, what they want and to check their ID.  If you are still not convinced by their story, you can tell them to go away, call a younger neighbour for assistance or if needs be call the police.

Distraction burglary is getting more sophisticated as people have become more aware of the techniques used, the sympathetic approach is now often used and increasingly in conjunction with children, sob stories are used to try and pull on the heart strings of the occupant, with a story along the lines of my car has broken down or a fake emergency.

Checking Identity

Checking the identity of a caller at the door, even if you are expecting someone is the first line of defence when dealing with this kind of burglary, always ask to see their identification, check the ID very carefully, if you are blind or partially sighted then ask a friendly neighbour to assist.  If you are not expecting anyone then extra care should be taken when checking the caller, take their name and who they are working for and ask them to wait outside.  Look up the company name in a phone directory or if needs be call some sort of directory enquires and check to make sure they have someone of that name working for them.  Do not use a number given to you by the caller, this could be a bogus number.
A number of utility companies are now using a password scheme, whereby a password given by the caller can be verified with the company concerned.

Chances are if you do go through the above advice and the caller is bogus, they will realise that you are not an easy target and move on.

Tips to stay safe

  • Fit and use a door chain, this allows you to identify a caller without the need to fully open the door
  • Don’t allow anyone into your house without first seeing some form of identification
  • If you are still not sure who is at the door, make a call to the company they say they are from, but don’t use a number from the caller, this could be a bogus telephone number
  • Don’t store large amounts of cash at home

Remember, stay safe and don’t trust anyone that comes to your door, if you are ever in doubt or fear of your safety, then call the police.

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