burglary is where a bogus visitor tells lies to con their way into a home, or
creates a diversion so an accomplice can sneak in. Because elderly or vulnerable
people are often targeted, distraction burglary can have a devastating effect
– victims can lose their confidence and peace of mind, as well as money and
are the offenders?
are professional teams of con men or women who travel the country, choosing
locations with a high density of older residents or mixed communities within
easy access of main or arterial roads. Surveillance information suggests tens
and sometimes hundreds of miles are travelled between offences. Offenders move
on following a concentrated period of offending. The constant movement also
makes detection both difficult and expensive.
do the offenders work with?
often have a network of connections. There is a close relationship with the
so-called ‘prop’ men; property repairers who trick older people into parting
with large sums of money
and distraction burglars. These criminals are known to sell victims details. They may use an accomplice who has made an initial ‘cold call’ to identify properties inhabited by older and other vulnerable people.
Anecdotal information also suggests that prolific offenders respond less to rehabilitation and
often learnt their skills from their parents during childhood.
to avoid becoming a victim of distraction burglary?
Hubbard Township Police Department is committed to reducing distraction
burglary, but police need the whole community to work together to keep out bogus
visitors. By following these tips you can not only lessen your chances of
becoming a victim, but also help others not to be targeted.
callers will say or do anything to gain entry to your home and because people
are becoming more aware that they shouldn’t let anyone in, they are using
increasingly devious tactics. Some of the lines used include:
Playing for sympathy -
“I’ve broken down, please can I use your phone?” or "I've ran out of
gas, could I borrow some money or a gas can?" or “I don’t feel very
well, could I use your toilet or get a glass of water?”
Good Samaritan - “I’ve
just caught someone climbing out of your window, I think they might have stolen
something. We need to check your money hasn’t been taken.”
Using children - “Hello
could my son and I come in to ask you some questions for his school project?”
Fake emergency - “There’s
a gas leak/flood in your road, I have to come in to turn off your supply.”
(Note that if there is a real gas or water emergency, police and firefighters
are likely to be present).
Leaving a note - “I’ve
dropped in to see my aunty/friend who lives next door, but she’s out at the
moment. Please could I borrow a pen and paper to leave a note.”
a lot of cases the person who calls at the door will divert your attention while
an accomplice sneaks into your house to search for valuables.
be afraid to be rude. You are not obligated to open the door for anyone you
don't know. Don’t open the door to anyone before you’ve checked who it is
– look out of the window or use a spy hole in your door. If you open the door,
keep the chain on while you find out who is calling and what they want. If
you’re not expecting someone and you don’t know them, don’t let them into
your home, no matter what they say to you. If a caller is genuine they will
understand your concerns. If someone claims to be from a company, such as a gas
or electricity provider, always double check their identity – see the section
below for tips on how to do that properly.
someone is asking for a favor, such as to use your toilet, borrow a pen or
retrieve a ball, don’t let them in. Instead direct them to a shop, office or
public place. It’s only natural to want to help someone, but sadly that’s
one of the techniques often used by distraction burglars. If you have any
concerns about someone who has called at your door, call police immediately. If
you have a chance try to note what they look like and any vehicle they have with
them, so police can investigate.
someone from a company calls at your door, even if you are expecting them, ask
to see their identification and check it thoroughly. If you are blind or
partially sighted, ask a friend or neighbour who you trust to help you if
someone calls at your door.
were not expecting anyone, explain that you need to check they are legitimate
and ask them to wait outside for a few minutes. Take a note of their name and
the company they claim to be working for and then close and lock the door. Look
up the phone number for the company in a telephone directory and check they have
an employee of that name and that they are visiting you on legitimate business.
Never just take someone’s word for it and don’t use any phone number they
give you to check their identity – you don’t know if it’s a genuine
if you should call the police. Even if no crime has occurred, it might be
worthwhile to make the police aware of any suspicious behavior. The police might
be looking for a suspect that matches the person's description, and your call
may save others from falling prey to a distraction burglary.
elderly are often not aware that they are a victim – Often victims do not
realise something has been taken, for hours, days or even weeks. In such cases
they are more likely to question
their own judgement and memory rather than admit that they have been a victim.
the elderly believe that reporting the crime is futile – Feelings of great
loss and powerlessness often ensue. These are compounded by emotions generated
by other life events, a recent bereavement may take up all spare emotional
capacity. As a result, victims often think it pointless and unnecessary to
report the incident and in many cases to even mention it to friends and
anyone can be a victim of distraction burglary, bogus callers often prey on
elderly or vulnerable people because they see them as easier targets. If you
know somebody who is elderly or vulnerable who might not be aware of this
advice, please do all you can to help them to protect themselves and their
homes. Offer to help your neighbours to check the identification of callers.
have elderly friends or relatives, have a look at their home to see if there are
any extra security measures that could be taken. If they don’t have a door
chain or spy hole make sure they have one fitted – they can be brought from
most home improvement or hardware stores for less than $10.
them to use a bank account instead of keeping large amounts of cash in their
home. Help them to keep their yard tidy – some burglars keep a lookout for
unkempt yards because it could be a sign that someone elderly lives there.
you are a victim of a distraction burglary
the police to report a distraction burglary the moment you realize valuables are
missing. Often, distraction burglars strike more than once, so make the report
as soon as possible.
neighbors aware of what happened so they can look out for similar schemes. Print
up a flyer detailing the crime and describing the perpetrator. Distribute it on