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Advice guide - Dealing with unexpected callers

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Dealing with unexpected callers at your door

A distraction burglary is where a criminal calls at your home posing as an official or asks for your help with something. They can make up a story to get in to your home.

Burglars need not go to the trouble of breaking in if they can just knock on your door and be invited in. Always be on your guard when anyone you’re not expecting - a man, woman or even a child - turns up at your door. An honest face or good story can hide a trick to get into your home.

Follow the advice on this page to help prevent you becoming a victim of distraction burglary.

  • LOCK - Keep your front and back doors locked even when you are at home.
  • STOP - Before you answer, stop and think whether you are expecting anyone. Check you have locked the back door and taken the key out. Look through a spy hole or window to see who the caller is.
  • CHAIN - If you decide to open the door, put the chain or door bar on first, if you have one. Keep the chain or bar on while you are talking to the caller. With PVC doors, it can be difficult and costly to fit a door chain. Check with the manufacturer before you buy a PVC door, that a chain can be fitted.
  • FIRE SAFETY - Only put on your door chain as you answer the door, don’t keep it on all the time as this could delay your exit in case of fire.
  • CHECK - Look at their clothing. Some official callers will have a uniform bearing their organisation name or logo. Even if the caller has a pre-arranged appointment with you, check their identification card carefully. Close the door while you do this. If you are still unsure, call the company concerned to verify their representative’s identity. If you’re still not sure ask the caller to come back later when someone is with you.

Bogus callers

  • You should never agree to have any work done by someone who is just passing by.
  • Ensure your back door is locked if you are answering the front door to someone you don’t know.
  • Watch out for anyone who says they’re in a hurry or it’s an emergency. Don’t let them pressure you. If in doubt, call a neighbour or friend or the police.
  • If you think a bogus caller has been to your home, call the police immediately on 999

Never let someone into your house because you don't want to seem rude or unsympathetic

  • Consider fitting a door chain and spy-hole to your front door; outside lighting can also help you identify callers. Never let anyone into your home unless you are satisfied about who they are and what they want.
  • Public service employees are required to show identity cards when they come to your home. Examine the card carefully as fake cards have been used. The card should have a photograph and the name of the organisation. If you are at all worried, ring the organisation to check the caller is genuine. Use the telephone number given in the phone book or on your utility bill, rather than the one printed on the identity card. A genuine worker won't mind waiting.

Most energy companies give you the option to submit readings by phone and online, and this could be used to avoid the above situation

  • If you need to have your meters checked but have difficulty reading identity cards, ring the number given on your bills and ask if they operate a free password scheme. This would mean that when a meter reader called they would identify themselves by the password you have given.
  • Be wary of employing tradespeople who come to the door offering bargain prices for work they say you need doing to your house. If you need building work doing, it is usually best to ask for several written quotes from trustworthy and established firms.
  • If you have a back door, make sure it is locked before answering the front door. Some thieves work in pairs and one will keep victims talking at the front door while the other tries to enter by the back door.
  • Your local council may provide a community alarm scheme for elderly or disabled people. Ask at your local police station or council offices.
  • If you are at all nervous, you could ask whoever is at the door to come back at an appointed time and arrange to have someone with you.

Answering the phone

  • Try not to answer the phone with your address or telephone number.
  • If the caller is not known to you, then avoid answering questions about yourself, no matter how innocent they sound.
  • If you have an answer machine, consider carefully before including your name or number in the message. The message should never tell people that you are out or away. Try and give the impression that you are only temporarily unable to answer.
  • If you are listed in the phone directory, you might want to give your initials and surname rather than your full name.

Dealing with malicious or nuisance calls

  • Try to keep calm and hang up without responding.
  • If the phone rings again, don't say anything when you answer. Normal callers will identify themselves and if it is the malicious caller you can hang up again. Make a note of the time and nature of the calls and, if the problem persists or you are worried, inform the police and your telephone provider.

Checkatrade helps you find a trader you can trust

You can see an up-to-date list of builders, plumbers, gardeners, painters, electricians and many other types of business at: www.checkatrade.com

Getting quotations

  • Try to get at least three written quotations.
  • Quotations should include a breakdown of costs including any extras and VAT where payable.
  • Check payment timing and agree any deposits and retention details. Avoid making payments ‘up front’ unless it’s for materials which are on site and you have a receipt for.
  • For contracts agreed at home you have cancellation right, The business should give you a written cancellation notice giving you a 14 day cooling off period.
  • For larger jobs consider choosing a contractor that offers an insurance backed guarantee.

If things go wrong

You have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. For initial advice and information on all aspects of buying goods and services contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 404 05 06 or visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk

Useful contacts

  • Nottinghamshire Victim Care (Cope and Recovery Empowerment) - 0300 303 1967
  • Age UK - www.ageuk.org.uk 0800 678 1174

Nottingham City

As part of their service Nottingham On Call offers a Bogus Caller Button- a silent alarm to be used when you feel threatened after answering the door to an uninvited caller. When the button is pressed no alarm will sound but the call centre will hear the intruder and intervene or contact the police if necessary.

To find out more please visit the following website: http://nottinghamoncall.org.uk/

Nottinghamshire County

Nottinghamshire County Council Trading Standards has a Nominated Neighbour Scheme to help protect vulnerable people from unscrupulous doorstep callers and rogue traders. If you live in Nottinghamshire then you can Nominate a Neighbour to deal with uninvited callers on your behalf.

Alternatively you may be a neighbour of a vulnerable person and would like to find out more about becoming a Nominated Neighbour.  If you are interested in finding out more about the scheme then please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 who will refer your enquiry through to Nottinghamshire County Council Trading Standards.

Find out more about the Nominated Neighbour Scheme.

For further advice please refer to our advice centre.

To speak to our Crime Prevention Unit about protecting your property and reducing your chances of becoming a victim of crime, email crime.prevention@nottinghamshire.pnn.police.uk

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