Beware Of These Home Invasion Scams!
Though it is often said that burglars and other criminals try to target empty homes, some criminals specifically target occupied homes, planning to use a guise to get inside when you open the door. They don't have to break in because you've let them in, right through the open front door. Home invasion scams come in many different forms. Each includes an excuse why someone you don't know needs to come inside your home. Learn the common elements of these scams so that you won't be caught off guard and inadvertently let someone dangerous into your home.
No matter what, always look through the peephole before you open the door. All the criminal needs is for you to unlock the door for a second so that they can force their way inside. Never open the door in order to tell someone to go away. Instead, speak through the door or simply ignore the knock. If you find your visitor suspicious, call the police. Post "no solicitors" signs, and ignore solicitors or anyone pretending to be one.
In one common home invasion scenario, a car is parked outside your home. Several people are standing around the open hood. One comes to your door, asking to borrow your phone to call a tow truck. Offer to call a tow truck for them, but don't let them inside your home to use your phone. This is just one example of a home invasion scam that preys on your sympathy. Be wary of any sob story, as it may be constructed specifically to get unsuspecting homeowners to open the door. Props like a car can make their story more believable, but it does not make it true.
Another version of this scam involves an unexpected delivery. Occasionally, the scammer will even call ahead to let you know to expect them; this call is just placed to ensure that you'll be home to let them in. When you open the door to sign for the package, they'll force their way inside. Tell any unexpected deliveryman to leave the package at the door, and do not open the door for any reason while they're still at your home.
Watch out for "too good to be true" scams, which exist in many forms. Often, someone in an official-looking uniform will tell you that they have free landscaping plants or other materials left over from a job in your neighborhood, and you can have them for free if you sign a form. This enticing offer has been constructed specifically to get you to open the door.
There are hundreds of different home invasion scams out there. Though there are many different versions, often the criminals dress in an official-looking uniform, as utility workers, delivery men, landscapers, plumbers, electricians, or solicitors. Some even have props, such as a fake ID or a tool box, to make their story more believable. Never be afraid to make them wait outside while you call their supposed company to see if a worker was actually sent to your home. If their story is real, they will be willing to wait.
In general, keep your door locked and always use the peephole when someone knocks on your door. Always be suspicious of anyone trying to gain entry into your home, no matter what story or reason they give you. While talking to them through the door, it may make sense to reference someone else in the home, even if you're home alone. Keep at least one form of personal protection, such as a canister of pepper spray, near the front door. You never know when you might need it, and it should be easily accessible.
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