It’s your doorstep so why do people think they can intrude whenever they feel like ringing the bell? From cold callers to fraudsters, anyone can turn up on your doorstep. Lock up, be aware, and stay safe – using our guide to doorstep safety.
What are the Risks?Numerous crimes have been reported by people who have inadvertently allowed a burglar into their house. Criminals will invent an ‘emergency’ or claim to be from the water or gas board to get access to your house. Most of us wouldn’t refuse access to someone who wanted a glass of water…
One common ruse is for the criminal to claim to be a repairman, who’s been sent to do some urgent work on your water pipes, telephone line, or similar. This is a reasonably plausible story; to add to the pressure, the criminal may tell you that (s)he must carry out the work as soon as possible to avoid complications. It may be a way for the criminal to get into your house, or it may be a way for them to issue you with an enormous repair bill. Trading Standards advises people never to accept a work quotation on the doorstep; if it’s that urgent, you’re unlikely to be unaware of it, aren’t you?
Another recent tactic has been knocking on doors and claiming to be an antiques buyer. The caller will be very polite and well groomed, and (s)he is likely to have a good knowledge of antiques – unfortunately, they will probably keep that to themselves. These fake ‘antique dealers’ have been known to buy valuable items from unknowing homeowners at a fraction of their true value. If this happens to you, ask them to return or give you a card, and get your pieces valued by another dealer before making any decisions.
Other doorstep criminals may dress in official-looking outfits and carry convincing badges of identification. They’ll do this in order to get into your home where, when your back is turned, they will help themselves to your valuables – or size up the place to come back later.
One terrible case of doorstep crime involved the caller targeting elderly people. He marched one woman to the post office to withdraw her savings, which he kept and never returned.
As you can see, the risks are significant. So how can you combat doorstep crime?
Installing an Intercom or Peep-HoleFor areas of higher risk, or people who have been victimised at home in the past, an intercom or peephole offers extra peace of mind.
You can buy a wireless audio intercom for less than £30. When your visitors arrive, they push the bell as usual; this rings a telephone in your house (or near your front door). When you pick up the telephone, your visitor can speak directly to you using the audio speaker attached to the front door. Advanced versions can also be linked to electronic latches, which give you even more control over the inside locks. More expensive intercoms come with video footage so that you can even see your visitors before answering the door!
Alternatively, you can attach a peephole to your front door. This is a cheap and easy option – if you or someone you know can use a drill with competence! Choose an attachment taking into account the thickness of your door. Make sure your peephole is fixed at a suitable height for your eyes.
Essential Doorstep SafetyHelp the Aged promotes a four-step precaution: Lock, Stop, Chain and Check. For late-night callers or for people who are particularly vulnerable, this simple method is enough to prevent opportunist crimes on the doorstep.
It’s actually a good method for anyone who receives an unexpected call.
- LOCK: Make sure your doors and windows are locked
- STOP: To think who you are expecting. You’re right to be suspicious
- CHAIN: Put the latch or chain on your door before opening it
- CHECK: If someone claims to be an official, ask for their identification. If you’re still uncertain, shut the door and call the company directly (using the phone book) for verification.