Protect yourself against doorstep crime

Protect against doorstep crimePic: Getty

You might imagine that in these modern times, door-to-door salesmen were a thing of the past. But in fact, cold-callers are very much still in evidence, and among them are some seriously unscrupulous types, many of whom target the elderly or vulnerable homeowners.

Distraction theft, where criminals pose as officials like meter readers in order to con their way into people's homes, and rogue traders who pressure householders into paying for work that is either never completed or downright dangerous, are just two examples of how doorstep crooks dupe Brits out of their cash. Follow these simple tips to stay safe and protect yourself against doorstep crime.

Accessorise your door
The aim for many bogus callers is to scam their way into your house to steal belongings or cash, but with the help of a little extra door furniture you have an excellent first line of defence. A spyhole and/or chain on the front door will allow you to see the person and check ID without giving them access.

Check ID
These days doorstep criminals are often extremely convincing. Some will appear legitimate official, with an ID badge or even a uniform. Don't just assume that they're honest. Before you open the door, ask for ID, and then double check it by telephoning the company they claim to be from, using the number on a utility bill or from the telephone directory. If they are legitimate, they will have no problem waiting on the doorstep. Utility companies often offer a doorstep password scheme that will enable you to quickly tell the legitimate from the dodgy.

Don't be pressurised
Good tradesmen, whether they be roofers or painters and decorators, are extremely unlikely to cold call in the search for business, so it is wise to treat any doorstep offers with a degree of suspicion. Oftentimes these 'rogue traders' will offer to carry out some minor repairs, only to leave you with a huge bill. Don't be pressurised into saying yes to any work. It is always better to speak to a reputable firm, get at least two or three quotes, and insist on a written detailed quotation if there is work that needs doing.

Don't pay up front
Many rogue traders insist on an upfront payment, often citing the need for materials as the reason. Don't be fooled. The chances are you'll never see them again. If a builder or tradesman asks for payment in instalments, agree when and at which stage of the job these will occur, and make sure you are happy with the work completed before you pay up. It's also not a good idea to pay in cash, as it could indicate that you have more in the house and leave you open to theft.

If in doubt...
Lastly, if you have any doubts at all about a cold caller, send them away and report it. The police believe many doorstep crimes go unreported because homeowners are embarrassed about being duped, but reporting a suspected bogus caller to the police will allow them to warn others of any scams in the local area, and help to stamp out doorstep crime.

Have you or has someone you know fallen victim to doorstep crime? Tell us about your experience below...