A security system can’t protect you from a distraction burglary, but a little education will raise your awareness the next time someone rings the doorbell.
The modus operandi of a distraction burglary is quite different than that of a traditional burglary. During a distraction burglary, the criminal intentionally engages with the occupant of a residence in an attempt to distract them so they, or an accomplice, can enter the residence. In essence, a distraction burglary is a crime where a falsehood, trick or distraction is used on an occupant of a dwelling to gain, or try to gain, access to the premises in order to burglarize it.
Who is the Most Common Victim of a Distraction Burglary?
Research carried out in the UK indicates that the majority of distraction burglary victims are elderly. Specifically, the research completed by Stuart Lister, David Wall, and Jane Bryan for the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies revealed that:
- Almost three-quarters (72%) of victims were over 75.
- Just over half (57%) of the victims exceeded the age of 80.
- The average age of a victim was 77 years.
- Most victims (69%) were female.
- Victims were almost exclusively white Europeans (99%).
What’s a Bogus Caller?
Often, the term “bogus caller” is associated with distraction burglaries. Bogus callers pose as utility workers, government workers, domestic contractors, or others to get inside the home. For example, a bogus caller might claim that there has been a gas explosion in the neighborhood and they need to check your home to be sure the gas line is safe. Bogus callers are particularly persuasive, persistent, and often display exceptionally genuine looking credentials.
In addition to bogus callers, beware of those who play the sympathy card. These criminals will pull at your heartstrings to come in your home. “I’ve lost my dog,” “I’ve got a flat tire,” “I locked my keys in my car,” “I need to use the phone,” and “My baby needs food” are all common sympathy card tricks. Criminals may also pretend that they are at your home to see an old friend, and they’ll be quite insistent that their friend lives there. While you’re trying to convince them otherwise, their partner gains access to your home.
Five Tips to Thwart a Distraction Burglary
1. Keep the doors and windows to your home locked at all times.
2. If someone presents themselves as a utility worker, government employee or the like, ask for their credentials. Don’t assume a genuine looking badge is the real deal. Close and lock the door and call the company or service to verify. Look up the phone number; don’t use one given to you by the possible suspect.
3. Don’t keep large sums of cash on hand. If you must, invest in a safe and have it bolted to the floor. Keep valuable jewelry there too.
4. Don’t be pressured or rushed. These criminals are professionals; they know just what to say to pressure and persuade you so you become flustered and distracted. Take your time, and if something seems amiss, it nearly always is. Go with your gut instinct. Close and lock the door immediately and notify your neighbors and law enforcement.
5. Refrain from hiring people that arrive on your doorstep. Often, distraction burglary offenders will appear as a worker trying to help you. They’ll offer to do things like clean the gutters, pave the driveway, or pressure-wash your home. While you’re outside looking at the gutters, their accomplice is inside your home searching for valuables.
Who Typically Commits Distraction Burglaries?
Distraction burglary offenders are typically members of highly organized professional con-artist teams. They travel the country, targeting areas with an especially high density of elderly people. They will hit an area hard for a short period of time and then quickly move along to their next target. Because they move from police jurisdiction to police jurisdiction quickly, they are especially difficult to catch. Sadly, the offenders quite often involve their children in the crime, teaching them the tricks of the trade.
According to the Hubbard Township Police Department of Ohio, distraction burglary offenders often target neighborhoods and communities that can be easily accessed off main roads and interstates. Surveillance information suggests that even hundreds of miles are travelled between offences.
Learn More about Distraction Burglaries
While research shows that older adults are most often the victims of distraction burglaries, no one is impervious to this devastating crime. If you think you’ve been a victim of a distraction burglary, or even an attempted one, notify your neighbors and local law enforcement immediately.
If you’d like to learn more about how to avoid being a victim of a distraction burglary, view this video put together by the El Segundo, California Police Department and call your local law enforcement agency to learn what crimes are occurring in your neighborhood.