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Burglary against older, vulnerable people is particularly distasteful – but older people are generally at a lower risk of burglary, compared to younger people.
Older people are, however, often the target for distraction burglary. This is also relatively rare but, when it happens, is extremely distressing for the victim – as distraction burglars prey on the trust and vulnerability of older people.

Most people who call at your home will be genuine, but sometimes someone may turn up unannounced, with the intention of tricking their way into your home. These people are 'distraction burglars' – also known as 'bogus callers' – and their aim is to distract you, so that they can steal your money and/or valuables.

What to look out for:

'Bogus callers' may be smartly dressed and claim to be from the council, the police, a water company or health organisation.

They may just ask for a drink of water, to wash their hands or use your telephone in an emergency.

They may claim to have lost a pet, or a ball in your back garden.

They may be men, women or even children – but all have one thing in common. They can be very convincing, persuasive and plausible.  Sometimes they work in pairs or teams. Whilst you are talking to one, an accomplice may be trying to enter.

'Bogus callers' may turn up as builders or gardeners and try to trick you into paying for unnecessary work. You should never agree to have work done by someone who is just passing by. The work will probably not need to be done at all!

Simple measures you can adopt

There are some simple crime prevention measures that can reduce the risk of distraction burglary. These tips will apply if you are living independently, or caring for older people living independently.  


1. Lock, stop,
chain, check

Lock – Keep your front and back doors locked, even when you are at home.

Stop – Before you answer, stop and think if you are expecting anyone. Check that you have locked the back door and taken the key out. Look through a spy hole or window to see who it is.

Chain – If you decide to open the door, put the chain or door bar on first (if you have one). Keep the bar or chain on while you are talking to the person on the doorstep.  (Normally when the door is shut and locked, you can leave the bar or chain off – in case you need to get out in an emergency).

Check - Even if the caller has a pre-arranged appointment, check their identity card carefully. Close the door while you do this. Look up a phone number in the phone book and ring to verify the caller's identity. Do not use a phone number on the identity card, as this may be fake.

Password Schemes:
Some companies now operate a password scheme. Customers give the company a word which is confidential to them and the company. When their representative calls, they will be expected to tell the customer the password to prove they are genuine. Check with your gas, water, electricity suppliers and other similar companies, to see if they operate such a scheme. These schemes will give you added peace of mind.

2. Always get quotes for repairs

Do not be pressured into paying someone before work has been done – and never accept any offers to drive you to the bank to withdraw payment money.

If you think work needs to be done, obtain and compare quotes from two/three companies. Ask a friend or relative, or your local council office for the names of reputable tradespeople or companies

3. Keep cash out
of sight

Aways try to pay by bank or building society cheque. Try to avoid keeping large sums of cash at home and  always keep valuables and cash out of sight from prying eyes.

4. If they're genuine they will wait

Only let the person in if you are absolutely sure they are genuinely who they say they are and who they represent. Genuine callers will always be happy to make an appointment to call – and they won't mind waiting while you check their identity. They will also be happy to call back later when someone can be with you.

5. Your vigilance can help others

If you think a bogus caller has called on you, report it to the police immediately. Try to give the police a good description of the person or persons. Tell a neighbour, warden or Neighbourhood Watch representative – just in case they try at other homes in the area.

The earlier the police know that bogus callers are working in an area, the quicker they can investigate and prevent others becoming victims.


Please don't be too concerned

Most callers to your home will be genuine.  Be assured that crime against older people is rare, but if you use the above guidance it can help protect you and your family – and enable you to live safely and securely in your home.

There will be many partnerships working in your area to reduce crime. These may include local councils, the police, utility companies, voluntary agencies such as Age Concern and Help the Aged and your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme. These partnerships are brought together under the umbrella of your local Community Safety Partnership. Details of this should be available on your local Council website.

The Home Office has produced a leaflet 'How to beat the bogus caller'. This can be downloaded from the following address:

Other useful links:

Neighbourhood Watch

Home Office, Victims' Rights


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