Criminals use a range of tactics to commit theft. When targeting the elderly or vulnerable, distraction burglaries are a common method. Distraction burglaries are usually committed by two people, one to distract the homeowner and the other to steal items when the victim’s back is turned. Access is gained under false pretences, often with stories that play on the fears of the homeowner. Some people have found their entire bank account drained, after giving their card and PIN to thieves under the guise of getting shopping for them. With many elderly people advised to shield during stages of the pandemic, fear of infection or of running out of essentials are both powerful motivators for accepting help when it is offered. Unfortunately, thieves have capitalised on this and turned it to their advantage.
We can’t be there every day to answer the door for our elderly or frail relatives or neighbours, but we can alert them to the dangers of accepting help from strangers; and to the dangers of telephone, online and postal fraud. The main thing we can do to keep our loved ones safe is to provide the help and support they need to keep safe, provided by someone they trust. Often, those who feel at risk will avoid asking for help because they don’t want to be a burden, or they feel that they will be looked down upon for needing help or for being the victim of crime.
If we want our elderly relatives and neighbours to feel safe, we need to very open with them about the risks of distraction burglaries and similar scams. We need to let them know that there will be no judgement should they become a victim of these crimes. We also need to ensure they know that help is available from trusted people and that they shouldn’t feel awkward about asking for it.
One of the ways that criminals know that someone is vulnerable, is people openly asking for help from strangers. We have heard of suggestions that the elderly and vulnerable hang a pillow case through their letterbox as a sign they need help, or to put a sign in their window. This might have started as an innocent way of helping people, but it today’s society it advertises the fact that the house is a great target for burglars and is inhabited by people who can’t fight back. Make sure that you or a trusted neighbour is able to look out for your loved one, deliver supplies and provide social contact at a safe distance. Regular contact, by phone or in person (with social distancing maintained) can help make your loved one feel safer in general, and supported, so that they don’t accept help from people who actually want to harm them.
If you’re worried, you could install a video doorbell for your elderly relative that will show them (and you) who has called round. Even if they do become a victim to a coronavirus scam you’ll have video evidence of the perpetrator, which could prove to be invaluable in tracking them down and charging them. Other CCTV cameras can help, even ones inside the home which could capture criminals committing a distraction burglary, which is incontrovertible proof of a crime.
The best way you can prevent this type of crime from happening is to educate and support your vulnerable relatives and friends; to ensure they’re well looked after and won’t fall prey to distraction burglaries, offers to get shopping or other Covid scams. Security products which provide a visible deterrent to thieves, such as CCTV or a video doorbell can also help deter those who don’t want to be caught on camera. We can provide advice and products to keep your vulnerable friends and relatives safe to ease your worries, and theirs.