When you hear a knock at the door that you weren’t expecting, chances are you peek through the spy hole in your door or out the window. You might even look for some sort of identification on the person; a button badge or logo on their shirt, for example. But, if you ask for identification, do you really know what you’re looking for to establish it is a genuine identification badge or card? In this article, we will look at what you need to know when it comes to asking to see identification from police officers, door-to-door salespeople, and services such as TV Licence officers.
Doorstep crime usually consists of people pretending to be genuine salesmen or officials. The main methods used by the con artists is to either:
- Attempt to get into your home or gain personal information from you.
- Offer services, needless repairs, or house and garden work.
However, both methods have the same goal; these criminals are after your money. Whether it’s through extortionate prices for poor quality work, or falsely claiming to be a police officer, meter reader, or charity collector, money is on the mind.
The current situation
According to the National Trading Standards (NTS), between January and March 2018, 77 per cent of intelligence logs recorded against priority areas were to report doorstep crime.
The NTS noted a number of operations that ran throughout the year in order to crack down on doorstep crime. One such operation, named Operation Funder, sought to end a pair of con artists who targeted the elderly or vulnerable. The pair dishonestly claimed to be employees of Dyson and carried out needless servicing of people’s Dyson equipment, as well as deploying aggressive sales tactics to pressure victims into purchasing Kirby Cleaners.
In this single case of doorstep crime, the courts determined the value of the fraud to be a whopping £1,597,049.00. It’s clear how many people can be impacted by a single instance of this type of crime. Anyone can fall victim to these acts, as these con artists are very adept at sounding legitimate, convincing, and honest.
There are a number of steps you can take in order to protect yourself from doorstep crime. Many police forces and ActionFraud advise the following actions if you hear a knock at the door:
- Keep your front and back doors locked. Often, doorstep crime can be linked to distraction burglary, where one person will distract you at the front door while their accomplice sneaks in to steal valuables or money.
- Take a look out the window or door view when you hear a knock at the door. Check to see if it is someone you know before unlocking the door. If it is a stranger, continue to follow these steps.
- Keep the chain on your door. You can open the door while leaving the chain on. This acts as an added precaution. Genuine callers will expect you to be cautious, so don’t worry.
- No appointment, no ID, no entry. This rule of thumb works well — if they aren’t expected, don’t let them in just because they’ve asked.
- Ask to see some identification. Whether they do or don’t have an appointment, ask to see some identification. ID badges can be forged, however, so do not rely entirely on this.
- Even if they are asking for help, don’t let them in. It may sound cruel, but especially if you’re living alone, it is a risk to your own safety to let a stranger into your home. Offer to call emergency services for them if needed, but do not let them in. Someone in genuine need of help will be grateful for your assistance contacting emergency services.
- Never part with money there and then. A real salesman will understand you might want to shop around and will be happy to offer a quote and contact number. This is much safer than agreeing to part with money at the door. This gives you the chance to review the cost and research the company the claim is said to be from. Run their business name through a site like Checkatrade, as this will give you a good idea of their reputation.
- If you’re unsure for any reason, do not answer the door. You do not need to answer the door if you’re unsure.
How to spot a fake ID
As previously mentioned, good practice is to ask to see some form of identification when a stranger comes to your door. However, forgeries are getting more and more detailed as the years go on — it can be difficult to spot a fault between a fake ID card or badge and a real one.
The best way to go about it is to look for contact information on the card. Do not allow the person into the house, but instead, phone the company number and ask for confirmation of the person purporting to work for them. For extra security, use your smartphone to Google the company name and ring the local branch number from there to ensure you are ringing through to a legitimate office.
If a police officer is at your door, again, ask to see their identification. A real warrant card, according to Kingsheath, will:
- Be around the size of a credit card and made from plastic
- Have the word ‘POLICE’ written in white on a blue bar across the top of the card
- Have the words ‘POLICE OFFICER’ written in red below that
- Have the officer’s collar number and photograph at the centre of the card
- Have the officer’s name and rank below the photograph
If, for any reason, you’re concerned the person standing at your door might not be a legitimate police officer, tell them calmly that you are going to phone the police. A real officer will understand; a fraudster won’t stick around!
To reiterate, while there are many ways you can protect yourself from doorstep conmen, remember that the ability to produce an identification badge isn’t always a guarantee that the person is legit. Never let someone into the house if you are uncertain.