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Distraction Burglaries: Get Informed

What is a Distraction Burglary?

A distraction burglary is when a person or team of people create a fictional story to create an opportunity to steal your money and/or valuables. The instances we will be examining today involve home invasion: using a false scenario and identity to enter your home, gaining access to your assets.iStock_000001733601_Large

Other examples of distraction burglaries can involve dropped items in a parking lot to gain access to your car, or a diversion that creates easy access to your purse.

Who Gets Targeted?

Distraction burglars often target the elderly. This is because they often live alone, are more likely to slip up on basic security measures, have slower reflexes, may suffer from impaired judgement, and are more likely to need assistance.

These vulnerabilities are important to distraction burglars because they make it easier to sell a false scenario. It is also easier to convince someone who may already be struggling with home upkeep that they need assistance.

In light of this, it is important for you to ensure your aging parents are aware of the safety precautions they should be taking to protect themselves. Frequently checking in on them and their home is also helpful.

What to Look For

If the person at your door appears to be in a hurry, that’s a red flag. They may be claiming there’s an emergency, insisting their work will only take a minute, and repeating that their business is necessary. They may be claiming that they need to test taps, turn off your water, flip an electrical switch, or even do an inspection of your house and/or yard.

Genuine staff and officials are patient with waiting and understand that you may need to verify their credentials. They are also often willing to call back later. Distraction burglars, on the other hand, will become very pushy as they try to access your home.

Officials or maintenance personnel who come without notice or an appointment are also suspicious. Even in emergencies, your city or county will usually call you in advance of anyone coming to your door.

If it is a company, board, or other association that you’ve never heard of before, you should be wary of their legitimacy. It is easy to make an official sounding name – a popular one in the UK is the “Water Board” – but if you’ve never heard of them before, it is unlikely that they are responding to an emergency situation.

Man with pipe wrench under a kitchen sink fixing a leak

Sometimes even children can be used in a distraction burglary. Asking to use your washroom, phone, or retrieve a ball or toy from your backyard are all easy ways to gain access to your home, especially if there is a group of them. These cases are much more difficult to determine as false.

Protect Yourself!

The number one way to protect yourself is to not allow someone into your home if you’re unsure about them. Remember, it is not rude to refuse strangers access to your home. You should never feel pressured or embarrassed into letting someone in.

ID and phone number can both be faked, so you shouldn’t trust these. To make checking legitimacy easy, keep a list of the numbers for your utility company that you can check their business card against. With this, always ensure to make an appointment before accepting maintenance help. If they’re a real company, they’ll have no issues coming back to your home.

One way to maintain protection in your home even when you allow strangers in is with a home security system. Smart security systems like Piper allow you to pair wireless accessories, such as the Fibaro motion sensor with it to expand the depths of your security. With a Fibaro motion sensor, you will receive a notification if someone enters an area. By placing them near your valuables, you’ll be able to stop potential burglars if they gain access to your home via. distraction burglary.Piper_Fibaro_motion sensor_Twitter

If there are kids asking to use your bathroom or phone, direct them to a neighbour or nearby public washrooms. If they’re asking to go get a ball from your backyard, retrieve it yourself and keep your door closed and locked while doing so. If you believe their claim is legitimate, ensure you keep all of the kids in sight while they’re in your home. If there is a group, you can allow two of them to enter, and ensure they stay together.

For more information we recommend this article from Safe Local Trades.

Help for Victims

If you think you’ve been a victim of a distraction burglary, always contact the police. They may be able to help you recover your stolen items, and this can also help protect other people in your area from the scam.

Dealing with a home invasion can be emotionally challenging. Especially with a distraction burglary, it can be disorienting and upsetting. It’s important to connect with your family and neighbours for support, and look into ways to prevent another burglary from happening.

Victim Support Services and Victim Assistance Program are good resources for additional help.