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Planning Retirement Online

Beware of Bogus Callers 

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Help the Aged and British Gas team up to help tackle a common crime - Distraction Burglary


There’s a knock at the door.  The caller is often male, respectable looking.   He says he is from the Gas Board or the Telephones or Electricity. The request may be something like needing to read the meter.  Or the caller may say that his friend is ill and needs a drink or he has to make an urgent telephone call.



Whatever the situation, he seems to be in a rush and there is often an emergency element - a flood, a gas leak or whatever.   He needs to inspect your water system/heating/telephone.  You let him in, and he rushes to the bedroom, or he turns on a stopcock in the kitchen.  There is confusion, and you are only half aware of a second person going into another room.   


Then suddenly they are gone.  You  find that the drawers in the bedroom are open, a handbag or wallet or jewellery is missing.  Or a drawer in the  hall or in the sitting room is open, and money has been taken (many people leave a wallet or money in the top  drawer in the hall or sitting room, often near the door).  


The police have a name for this kind of crime - Distraction Burglary, or sometimes Burglary Artifice.  But the instantly recognisable term is Bogus Callers. Anyone is vulnerable.  Au pairs and cleaners, young mothers with small children.  But elderly people are the most often targeted.

Offenders use to their advantage the fact that elderly people generally have more regularity in their daily activities, are less likely to resist entry to offenders and certainly don't have the strength to flee or fight an intruder. They also perceive older people as having wealth and keeping valuables and cash on their premises.

It's easy to fall victim to a bogus caller. Their disguise as utility workers, trades people or even police officers, enables them to trick their way into the homes and the pockets of the public. They are usually very effective and develop organised plans to carry out the offence, often repeatedly victimising a person until all valuables have been taken.

Figures from the Home Office Distraction Burglary Task Office report suggests the extent of the problem is higher than police figures would suggest. It is estimated the figure is around 100,000 victims per annum - that's 4 to 5 times higher than the number of crimes recorded. In the light of this, both the Government and the Police force are making a concerted effort to slash these statistics and improve the quality of life of vulnerable communities.

Help the Aged and British Gas have also set out to tackle distraction burglary by joining forces and creating the SeniorSafety Campaign. This aims to highlight the issue of bogus caller crime against older people. To find out more and to gain advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of crime, visit 



Ways to foil bogus callers  

        If you don’t have a safety chain on the door, contact your local Crime Prevention Officer (through the local police station)

        Never answer the door to strangers without fixing the safety chain first

        Don’t forget to tell this instruction to any cleaner or house guest

        Ask for identification before removing the chain and examine the certificate carefully

        If in doubt tell the caller to wait while you telephone the organisation they claim to represent

        When any utility needs to visit - to read the meter for instance - ideally ask them to ring and make an appointment first.  Essential for the elderly living alone

        If the request is for water or use of ‘phone because ‘my friend is ill’ say sorry and suggest they go to the nearest police station or public library

        Remember that bogus callers may look and sound very respectable.  Or they may look highly distressed and vulnerable - don’t take chances

        Don’t keep valuables in that top drawer in the hall or living room


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