A Look at ‘strangers at your door’
The majority of people who knock on your door or ring the bell are genuine, bona fide individuals who are there for any number of legitimate reasons, from family members visiting a relative to delivery operatives like post office workers and courier companies, religious groups, door-to-door sales people, officials from Government and Parish departments etc. They all have a genuinely held belief that they are at your door for a specific and legal enterprise.
However, there are also unscrupulous individuals and groups that sometimes target premises for nefarious aims, such a burglary, theft and assault (both criminal and/or sexual). These peoples’ aim is to attempt to gain entry by using pursuasive engagement and a well rehearsed story to gain your confidence enough so that you will happily grant them entry. These individuals are generally known as ‘confidence tricksters’, who uses a seemingly genuine sounding story to gain access to you and your belongings.
Regularly used identities have been that they are from the electricity company, water board, local council, telephone engineer, social services, housing department etc.; the list and made up stories are endless. And some people are excellent at convincing you that they are the genuine person, even producing fake letters with officially looking letter heads, fake identity cards and signage on vehicles.
If a person turns up at your door claiming to be from a utilities company, often these are visits that happen on a regular basis and the representative is known to them. They used to expect the electric meter reader, or the water meter guy to come at set times of the year or the daily post man delivery. Often, if a resident is elderly, this can be the only human contact that many have.
Below are a few tips if you are unsure as to who is coming to your door:
- Prior to opening your door, put the safety chain on (if you do not have a safety chain fitted, I would recommend that you do so).
- For an extra level of security one could have a spy hole fitted which allows you to view a wide angle of who is at your door. There are now door bells on the market that allow you to view, record and speak to the person on your mobile device without having to open the door.
- Ask the person to identify themselves. If they are genuine, they will have no problem complying with this request. Ask for an official identity card. If they produce a business card, this is not an identity card as they normally do not carry a photograph of the holder but, it does give you an opportunity to contact the person’s place of work to see if they have sent out someone to see you. Even if they give you an identity card, they will not be fazed by you ringing their workplace to check. DO NOT let them in unless you are satisfied that they are genuine. Err on the side of caution.
- An ‘official-looking letter’, on its own, is not proof of identity. Anybody can mock up this type of document in minutes on a home computer.
- Prior to letting someone in, ask them to state clearly and in easy to understand language, what they are at your premises to do. If they are too vague or have no specific task, do not let them in.
- If you are unsure of anything, contact a friend or family member who can either come down straight away or at a later time and arrange with the person at the door to come back when you have company.
- Sometimes, people who would gain entry to your house, to steal or worse, may have been watching yours and/or other peoples’ houses for a while so that they can select likely targets. Unfortunately this seems to be narrowed down to the elderly and vulnerable and people living on their own, sometimes at isolated addresses.
- If in doubt, do not let them in and call the Police.
I have noticed, as technology improves, that some of the traditional utilities companies no longer need to physically gain entry to premises to read meters and check gauges. This can all be done via interactive technology where meters are read remotely by computers. No need to leave the office.
Finally, for now, and something that has come to Jersey in the recent past, that has been prevalent for years on the British mainland; DODGY BUILDERS.
There is a regular occurrence in the UK whereby an alleged ‘Builder’ would turn up at your door unannounced and tell you that, while driving past your house, they had noticed that you have problems on your roof, guttering, exterior facade, chimney etc., it could be anything. If you do not know much about building construction, it would be very easy for someone to invent a plausible story to try and convince you that work needed to be done and that it was fortunate that they were passing.
These persons invariably will give you an on-the-spot quote, normally vastly inflated and state that the problem, if there ever was one in the first place, was a lot bigger that they first thought. The price would then steadily increase to sometimes eye-watering proportions, but many vulnerable and elderly people will go along with this. These con-artists are normally extremely convincing. It has been known for these people to drive the householder to a cash point or several cash points to draw out money which they always, “need up front’. They then milk the situation for as long as they are able and regularly leave the house in a worse state than they found it before disappearing without trace and move on to their next victim.
This is not a dig at genuine builders, whether small works companies or larger contractors who in most cases are genuine Company’s, fully insured and experts in their trade. This is about the chancer in a van, with their eye to a quick scam, with enough general knowledge to sound plausible, whose sole intention is to rip people off and disappear without trace. If in doubt say no and call the Police to check.
In Jersey, we are seeing more and more UK registered ‘works’ vans on the island’s roads. Many are genuine and here for a lawful purposes who, if required, have obtained the relevant licenses to operate but, there are still some who have slipped the net at the Port of entry and are here to make a quick buck before disappearing from our shores back to the mainland.