Following a number of thefts from houses in Dumfries recently, Dumfries Community Policing Unit are offering the following advice
Always lock windows & doors even if you are in
Never leave valuables on display
Set house alarms if you have one
Use timer switches on lights if out
Consider security marking property
Always report suspicious activity to Police on 101.
People in Scotland are not taking the right steps to protect themselves online despite the increasing risk, according to new statistics from the UK-wide cyber security campaign, Cyber Aware.
The latest statistics point to a clear gap between intention and action when it comes to people protecting themselves from cyber crime, with few taking the basic precautions despite 79% of people in Scotland agreeing ‘It’s up to me to make sure I keep secure when I’m online’.
According to the new National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, using three random words to create a strong password and always downloading the latest software or app updates, are the best ways for people to protect themselves.
Are you using a password manager? Its simple to use and can help keep you safe online.
Fraudsters are sending out virus infected emails that claim a package has been seized by HM Revenue & Customs upon arrival into the United Kingdom. The official looking scam emails claiming to be from Royal Mail contain a link to a document which will install malicious software on your computer designed to steal credentials like account names, email addresses and password
An example email reads:
Title: Your parcel has been seized
Royal Mail is sorry to inform you that a package addressed to you was seized by HM Revenue & Customs upon arrival into the United Kingdom.
A close inspection deemed your items as counterfeit and the manufacturers have been notified. If your items are declared genuine then they will be returned back to you with the appropriate custom charges.
You may have been a victim of counterfeit merchandise and the RM Group UK will notify you on how to get your money back. Please review the attached PDF document for more information.
Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.
To help the spread of the virus, the email also says: “you will need to have access to a computer to download and open the Zip file”. If you receive one of these emails, do not click on any links or download any attachments and report it to Action Fraud.
- Royal Mail will never send an email asking for credit card numbers or other personal or confidential information.
- Royal Mail will never ask customers to enter information on a page that isn’t part of the Royal Mail website.
- Royal Mail will never include attachments unless the email was solicited by a customer e.g. customer has contacted Royal Mail with an enquiry or has signed up for updates from Royal Mail.
- Royal Mail have also stressed that they do not receive a person’s email address as part of any home shopping experience.
If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud you can report it online: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by telephone: 0300 123 2040
Police are appealing to people to remain vigilant for bogus callers who may visit isolated properties or vulnerable people to hard-sell goods or services. We are receiving an increasing number of calls about this type of activity in the local area. Bogus callers are likely to call without appointment. They may be smartly dressed but will often adopt pushy and aggressive tactics to secure sales, often at vastly inflated prices.
Please DO NOT -
• Feel pressured into agreeing to buy goods or have work done to your property
• Feel pressured by time-bound discounted pricing offers
• Feel pressured by claims that your property needs urgent repair
• Allow people into your property unless you are satisfied about their identity
• Ask a salesman for identification – they are required to produce it
• If you do want work carried out, agree a price that you’re happy with in advance and get it in writing so you can refer to it later
• Obtain a quote from at least one other contractor before agreeing to work being carried out
• Ensure you get a 7-day ‘right to cancel’ cooling off notice for any job over £35 in value – the contractor is required to provide it
• Ensure the cooling off notice provides details of who to contact should you wish to cancel
All of those issues are regulated under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and are enforced by Trading Standards to prohibit unfair and aggressive commercial practices.
Look out for yourself and any vulnerable neighbours in your area. There are plenty of highly skilled and reputable tradesmen throughout Dumfries and Galloway who will undertake work to a high standard for you, so please don’t get caught out and ripped off by those who would take advantage.
Report any concerns to us immediately and where possible let us have the registration number of the vehicle being used by the bogus workmen/salesmen.
We're increasing the number of officers who detect and prevent wildlife crime in Scotland with a new advanced training course scheduled for next month.
This now means we have a network more than 100 additional wildlife crime liaison officers across all 14 divisions.
The investigators tackle a variety of wildlife criminality including the persecution of animals such as bats and badgers; people illegally trading in endangered species; the poaching of fish and deer, and the persecution of birds of prey.
We appeal again for everyone to keep their eyes open, report any suspicious activity and help us bring an end to Wildlife Crime in Scotland by calling 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Avoiding Rogue Traders
It can be a daunting task arranging for repairs to be done to your or a family members property. You want to be able to contact a trader you can trust.
If you don’t know of a reliable tradesperson, asking friends or relative for their opinion is a good first step. However, when this does not yield any results, the alternative is often looking through the phone book, performing an online search or checking the local paper. The problem is that anyone can pay for a professional looking advert to appear in these publications - genuine and rogue traders will be advertising side by side. Cowboy and rogue traders cause misery and disruption to thousands of people’s lives every year.
The Dumfries and Galloway Trusted Trader Scheme helps remove the ‘chance’ factor when selecting a tradesperson. The Scheme works by publishing customer
feedback, which is independently collated by Referenceline Ltd, so you’ll know exactly what a firm’s previous customers think of them – we publish the good and the bad comments!
As the Trusted Trader Scheme is administered by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Trading Standards Department, you can be assured it will be run fairly and honestly. The scheme is a local business partnership aimed at increasing consumer confidence, promoting good practice within local small business, and helping protect citizens from doorstep crime. Scheme members offer a range of services from Gardeners to Builders and many more in-between . So you no longer have to take a gamble when selecting a tradesperson.
For more information, please call Dumfries and Galloway Trading Standards on 030 33 33 3000 or view our website here. www.dumgal.gov.uk/trustedtrader
Police Scotland Home security advice...
We're reminding householders not to let the improved weather blind them to the importance of home security...
- As you spend time outdoors in the warm weather, doors and windows are often left wide open, providing a ready invitation to passing opportunist thieves who could sneak in and out in a matter of seconds taking valuable property with them. Keep windows and doors locked.
- Don't keep any keys or valuables within arm’s reach of the front or back door - keep them out of sight.
- For visibility at night, consider sensor-operated lighting which is convenient and an effective deterrent.
- If your shed/garage has windows, consider fitting a curtain, or similar, to obscure the view of the shed contents.
- Mark all the electrical equipment with an ultraviolet marker pen or register at immobilise.comwww.immobilise.com
- If you have an alarm - make sure and use it. Also, consider an intruder alarm for your shed or outbuilding.
- Never leave your shed/garage unlocked. Are the locks secure?
Police officers in Edinburgh investigated after an elderly couple were targeted by a group of men who were incredibly persistent in their approach to carrying out work on their driveway. Despite being told on numerous occasions that they did not want the work to be carried out before a builder friend of theirs was consulted, these men drove the householder to another address to show the work they had completed nearby and, on their return, started to lift their current driveway slabs having still being told the work wasn’t to be carried out.
Thankfully they were finally put off from continuing when a neighbour intervened, told them to leave, and called the police.
This is a real example, which Police Scotland officers dealt with.
Doorstep crime, from bogus callers to rogue traders, is a serious problem in Scottish communities but one which is often under reported.
Bogus callers pretend to be from a legitimate organisation, such as the gas board or council, in order to gain entry to the home. Rogue traders offer to do work for cash but the work is usually very poor and not worth the high price.
In response, Police Scotland is launching Operation Monarda and is asking for your help.
So what can you do?
Two small things can have a big impact
- Report any incidents of bogus callers or rogue traders in your neighbourhood.
- Share the advice below with vulnerable friends and family.
How to stop doorstep crime
- Lock your doors whether you are in or out.
- Don’t allow in any callers who haven’t made an appointment.
- Fit a chain or, ideally, a door-bar to allow you to open your door a little to see who is outside.
- Fit a peephole to your door to let you see who is outside without opening the door. If you don’t have a peephole you can answer callers to the door from a window.
- Do not accept ID badges as proof of identity as these can easily be forged.
- Look out for your neighbours and, if something seems wrong, contact your local trading standards office or Police Scotland.
- Don’t worry about seeming rude. Genuine callers expect you to be careful.
For more information about Police Scotland's campaign visit http://www.scotland.police.uk/whats-happening/campaigns/2015/beat-doorstep-crime
Get Safe Online, Safer Jobs and Action Fraud are warning people to take precautions whilst looking for jobs online, to avoid falling victim to scammers.
There are a number of different ways in which job-seekers could be defrauded. These range from direct financial scams to misleading job descriptions.
Safer-Jobs, the recruitment industry’s counter fraud forum, provide free advice to ensure that people have a safer job search. They suggest several steps which any other job-seeker should take when dealing with a potential employer:
1. Never part with money – employers should pay you, not the other way round. If asked to pay for security checks, visas, training, or anything else, you should research the job, the company, and never use any associated company suggested to you without conducting independent thorough research.
2. Never take it on face value– have you received an ‘out of the blue’, ‘too good to be true’ job offer? Be sceptical and ask questions. Why and how have you been contacted, what is the job, did you apply? Be wary of any non-business, generic email address (such as hotmail and yahoo), poorly written job adverts or job descriptions, and emails or contact at unusual times of the day (unless pre-arranged).
3. Never do everything online – whilst technology is a great enabler to help people find work, at some point your job discussion should lead to an interview or a meeting. Hiring agents who keep the relationship solely on email must be treated extremely cautiously.
4. Never fail to do research – find out about the company that the job is with and do your research! Check landline telephone numbers and call the end employer to check the job exists. Use social media and sources such as Companies House and LinkedIn to dig deeper into the organisations and people you are interacting with.
5. Never phone them for an interview – premium rate phone scams are common. This is where an individual calls a pay-for number thinking it’s an interview, when actually they are paying for every minute they stay on hold. If an employer wants you to work for them, they will call you.
6. Never accept money for nothing – with money mule scams on the increase, beware of any employer promising ‘get rich quick’ or ‘earn thousands working from home’. When cheques begin arriving it is easy to be fooled into being used as a money mule.
7. Never provide personal details– be suspicious of any requests for personal data ahead of an interview or registration meeting (if an agency). Until you have the job, keep bank details safe and only provide identity details once you have met face to face.
For more information visit:
How can I avoid scam and phishing emails?
Here are a few tips to help you keep yourself safe from these types of email...
- Guard against spam – Be cautious of any email you are not expecting or from unrecognised senders.
- Don’t click links – Hover over any links before you click them, does the link contain a strange address that is different from the email content? If so, don’t click it.
- Go direct – instead of clicking on the links in the email, go to the website directly.
- Personal information – Be aware of any email that asks you to log in, for personal or financial information, they might be trying to steal it.
- Read warnings – If you follow a link and get an SSL warning message, read it, does the SSL certificate match the website you are visiting?
- Protect yourself – Ensure your computer is protected with a firewall, spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spy software
- Latest software – Ensure you always upgrade your web browser and email client to the latest version. The upgrades may include essential security updates and built-in protection you are missing out on.
- Double check – If you ever receive a suspicious email, and are unsure if you should click the link, simply contact the company who sent the email and check the authenticity of the email. It only takes a moment but could save you a lot of trouble.
the following advice received from the Scottish Business Resilience Centre
What’s the Problem?
Today almost everyone has a smartphone - but many users are unaware of how to keep them secure. Unlike traditional mobile phones, smartphones may store your location, your home address, where you work and other personal data. Increasingly, smartphones are also used to store business data. Also, more and more businesses are introducing a policy of “bring your own device” (BYOD), where employees connect to the business network and work from their personal devices. Consequently it is critical to secure smartphones from data loss or malicious cyber-threats, as the breach of a single device could compromise an entire business.
Who is affected?
All smartphone users are affected, but businesses that allow employees to connect personal devices to the company network, or are considering doing so, should be particularly aware.
What is the Solution?
Smartphones are essentially an additional computer we carry with us and it is important to protect them as we would any other computer. Below are recommendations to reduce the ways a device may be open to attack, as well as to increase data security in the event of loss or theft. By taking these simple steps, and being cautious with the data on the device, it is possible to protect your smartphone from most threats.
These are the six steps to secure any smartphone, whether business or private:
1. Enable encryption on the device and set a pin or passcode that will automatically lock after a certain period of inactivity
This will help protect sensitive data if the phone is lost or stolen. These options can usually be enabled from the phone’s “Settings” menu.
2. Ensure you can track and wipe your mobile device if it is lost or stolen
This will not only protect the sensitive data on the phone but may enable you to retrieve a lost or stolen device. Almost all modern smartphones have these abilities built in, but if not you can install an application to do the job.
3. Examine what is listed next to the “Accept” button before installing applications
Some applications request a lot of access to the mobile device and the data it holds. By examining what access the application is requesting it is easier to make an informed choice about whether to agree to it or not. For example, it might be wiser to avoid installing a game if it requires access to location and the ability to record phone calls.
4. Keep the operating system and all installed applications up to date
Keeping phone software up-to-date is an on-going process. Having up-to-date software helps ensure any vulnerabilities found are fixed quickly which minimises the risks posed to the device and the data stored on it.
5. Switch off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and location services when not in use
Not only does this save battery power but it also reduces the chances of the device making unwanted connections and giving away sensitive information.
6. Separate personal and business information
It is very convenient to use the same mobile at home and at work, but this often means personal and business information are stored on the same device which creates additional risks. It is a legal requirement that additional steps be taken to protect the business data. Many smartphones support this by having options to keep personal and business data separate.
These steps should be adopted by all smartphone users. In addition, businesses intending to either supply company phones to employees, or allow them to use personal devices for business purposes should also consider the following steps. These will increase security and allow businesses to feel confident while gaining the benefits of a BYOD policy:
1. Develop a strategy for mobile device security. To do so, conduct an audit to determine what devices are being used in your organisation. This audit will help you carry out a risk assessment. Both the audit and the risk assessment will help identify what policies and procedures your business need to put in place.
2. Devise a policy for mobile phone use. This must include: password requirements; types of data allowed to be stored on the device; guidelines for personal use of mobile devices; and reporting procedures for lost and stolen devices.
3. Establish who is accountable. Businesses have a responsibility to provide employees with policies and procedures on the safe use of smartphones, and it is the employee’s responsibility to understand these policies and procedures and be accountable for the security of their devices and the data stored on them.
4. Provide awareness training. Businesses should implement training and awareness sessions for staff to inform them of emerging trends and threats, including topics such as phishing, malware and eavesdropping.
5. Use application controls. Implement appropriate application controls to protect both the data and the devices. Businesses should restrict corporate emails to devices which conform to company policy, and must ensure operating systems are current.
6. Explain privacy issues. All employees should understand privacy issues. Unauthorised disclosure of customer, client or employee information can result in damage to the company reputation, fines and data breach.
Where can I get more information?
For more information on protecting your smartphone, or for personalised advice on training staff to do so, contact the Scottish Business Resilience Centre via the information below:
Unit 10, Alpha Centre +44(0)1786 447441
Stirling University Innovation Park www.ecrimescotland.org.uk
Crime Prevention Advice
Police Scotland are asking the public to be alert in relation to the security of their homes after a spate of break-ins to homes across the Division over the past 10 days or so. Enquiries are ongoing into these crimes, many of which happened when the home was unoccupied, either for a few days or over a longer period when the occupiers were away on holiday.
Housebreaking is a crime that we all fear, but there are a number of different ways that you can help to deter burglars.
Burglars prefer to gain easy access to homes, so the harder you make it for the criminal the lower your chances are of becoming a victim. In addition, if you do become a victim, there are measures that you can take to increase the chance that your property will be returned to you if they are later recovered by the police.
Here are some ways that you can protect your property:
- Security mark your property with a UV marker pen. You can use this pen to place an invisible imprint of your postcode and house number on your possessions.
- Place a sticker on a conspicuous window of your home that states your possessions have been security marked will also help to deter thieves. Ask for one of these stickers at your local police office.
- Keep your home securely locked at all times. Most house break-ins are committed by opportunist thieves who do not have to break-in due to a door or window having been left open.
- Speak to the crime reduction officer at your local police office about the safety devices (locks, timers, lighting etc) and procedures (closing curtains after dark, cancelling regular deliveries when you are on holiday, etc.) that you can put in place to increase the security of your property.
- Don’t advertise the fact on social media (Facebook/Twitter) that you are going to be away from home on holiday – it’s an open invitation to burglars to pay you a visit when they know the house will be vacant.
- Talk to your landlord or council about installing a telephone entry system. This may be easier to organise if you get together with other residents.
- Don't put your name or room number on your keyring if you live in shared accommodation. If it is lost or stolen, the thief will have information that could direct them to your home and your property.
- Change the locks - if other people, such as previous tenants, could be in possession of keys that fit the locks in your home.
- Don't give keys to tradesmen as they can make copies quickly and easily.
- Don't go in - if you see signs of a break-in at your home - like a smashed window or an open door. The burglar may still be inside. Instead, go to a neighbour and call the police. Immediately.
- Don't show people around on your own, if you're selling your home. Ask your estate agent to send a representative to accompany anyone who wants to view the house. Opportunist thieves can use such opportunities to steal your possessions.
Crime reduction Officer Constable Derek Hughes says “anyone who is concerned about the security of their home can call us on 101 to arrange a free crime prevention survey with their local crime reduction officer. We will make an appointment for a suitable time to call and give advice on simple and cost effective ways of increasing the security of your home, helping to make you feel that bit safer. It just might be the best call you ever make, as no-one wants to be the victim of a break-in. Make it hard for the thieves, and we are here to help keep you safe with advice and assistance.”
Doorstep crime remains the top national priority for trading standards in Scotland. It is carried out by cruel, unscrupulous and organised criminal groups who deliberately prey on the most vulnerable in society, predominantly the elderly population. Doorstep criminals are mobile and often work cross border with many perpetrators being well known across different council areas. Winter can be a particularly opportunistic time for doorstep criminals with the bad weather which can damage property. Criminals draw on this to instil fear into their victims that if they don’t sort out the damage now, it could cost much more in the future.
The joint Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland campaign launched today, Tuesday 25 February, and urges victims, potential victims and their families and friends to call their local trading standards service immediately if they have suspicions about someone who has come to their door.
As part of our campaign, we are recommending that consumers consider the following advice
- Don’t feel pressurised into agreeing to immediate work. Never listen to scare stories, beware of traders who suddenly appear after storms or floods and of claims that a low price is only available if you sign up right away.
- Don’t agree to buy from the first person who calls. Ask yourself if you really want these goods or services.
- Don’t pay cash up front. Never pay for work before it is completed and don’t hand over large sums of money.
- Do shop around if you decide you need work done. Get a minimum of three quotes from reputable traders and get recommendations from people you trust.
- Do ask what your cancellation rights are. Remember for jobs costing over £35, traders are required to provide the consumer with a written notice informing them they have a seven day cooling off period during which they can change their mind and cancel the contract.
- Do REPORT THEM! Don’t ever feel embarrassed if you feel you have been the victim of doorstep crime. If you are in any way unsure about a caller at your door, contact Trading Standards or the Police immediately.
What is a bogus caller?
These are people who use distraction techniques to preoccupy a victim and steal from their home. This could be someone asking to use the bathroom or telephone or for a drink of water. Whilst the occupier's back is turned, the thief will steal whatever they can find. Bogus callers may also pretend to be a utility worker or tradesman to gain access to a property.
Bogus Workmen are different from bogus callers as they will carry out general maintenance work which is often shoddy or not completed. They will then charge an excessive amount for the work carried out. Another tactic used, is to ask for the money up front under the pretence of purchasing building materials. After the money is received they will not return to the premises and the work is left undone.
Make it difficult for rural thieves.
Small things you do can hold the key whether you are targeted or not:
• Make sure sheds and outbuildings are properly secured
• Don’t leave anything of value, including scrap metal where it is clearly visible to any passing motorist
• Consider property marking anything of particular value
• Ensure heating oil tanks are secured and if possible covered by an alarm or security light
• If possible ensure trailers, caravans and quad bikes have suitable security devices
• Don’t assume all people touting for scrap metal are genuine business people. Some simply use this as a cover to turn up at houses and farms to see what they can steal at a later date. Scrap metal dealers require a Civic Government (Scotland) Licence issued by the Council to lawfully go about their business – ask to see their licence before agreeing to give up scrap metal.
• Don’t assume because you live in a remote rural location keys can be left in quad bikes or other vehicles. Always remove keys and as far as possible lock quad bikes away out of sight.
• If you see anything suspicious in a rural area take as much detail as you can remember, particularly in respect of the people involved and their vehicles. Type of vehicles and registration numbers are important pieces of information.
• Telephone the police on 101 or 999 when you see anything suspicious happening - don’t wait. We would much rather deal with a false alarm with good intent than risk losing the opportunity to catch the criminal in action.
Securing your home
All external doors should be of solid construction and fitted with locks that at least meet British Standard 3621 (e.g. mortise locks or integrated multi-locking systems). Look for the BS kite mark. If in doubt consult a qualified locksmith. Ideally the locking mechanism should include bolts at the top and bottom as well as the main one in the middle. Door frames should be well fitted, secure and robust with little or no cavities around them; otherwise the door will just give way when forced. Any glass panels should be laminated and fitted into the structure of the door, not merely held in place by putty, wooden or UPVC batons.
The same standard should apply to all external doors into your house, not just the front door. There's no point having a hefty high security front door if your other doors don't have the same level of security. Thieves will quickly identify the weakest point of entry into your house. Treat any connecting doors to garages as external doors (as garage doors are not secure) and make sure that patio doors and French windows are equally secure. Fit a door viewer ("peephole") and chain to your front door. Your doors will of course not be secure unless you lock them. Keep your doors locked, even when you are in the house. Thieves can easily sneak in and steal your car keys or valuables from the hall without you noticing. Pay particular attention to locking your front door if you are in a back room or in the back garden. Don't leave keys in the door, keep them out of reach of the letterbox or windows (but easily accessible in case of emergency).
Nearly half of all burglaries are through windows. Ground floor windows and those accessible from rooftops or drainpipes are most at risk. These should all have key operated window locks. Sash windows can be easily fitted with locking sash bolts. Don't leave keys in the locks or within sight, but keep them nearby in case of emergency. Thieves don’t like smashing glass; it may draw attention to them. If you’re replacing glass, fit laminate glass as this is the most resilient against attack. Be conscious of what can be seen through your window from the street. You may like sitting in your living room with the lights on and the curtains open, but do you really want everyone going past to see your new flat screen TV and expensive HI-FI?
Garages & sheds
Check your garage door. If it's an up-and-over style with a catch at the top, is there a gap at the top large enough to fit long-nosed pliers through? If so then fit something to block the gap where the catch is - even a simple piece of metal attached to the door frame where the catch is can be enough to slow down a thief. Sheds are particularly vulnerable as they are usually not very secure. Ideally, avoid keeping anything of value in sheds if possible. When choosing a location for a new shed, try to put it somewhere visible to neighbours or the road, rather than in a secluded corner. Fit a lock or padlock to shed doors, but remember to keep things in proportion. There's no point fitting a great big padlock if the hinges can be removed in minutes with a screwdriver, or if the windows are just plastic sheets. Given that most sheds are flimsy affairs and therefore hard to secure, consider fitting a shed alarm. These are cheap and easy to install and might act as a better deterrent. Make sure you indicate to potential thieves that an alarm is installed, e.g. with a sticker on the window. If you keep bikes in your garage or shed, keep them padlocked to something (or each other). It won't stop a determined burglar but may slow down an opportunist thief from making a quick getaway with it.
Around your home
As well as securing your home itself, it's worth thinking about your garden and surroundings. High walls, fences or hedges offer privacy but also provide cover for thieves. Gravel drives and paths mean you can hear when people approach your house. Look around your house and imagine yourself as a thief - how would you get in? Install motion-operated security lighting in areas that are not normally illuminated, such as at the back of your home. This can draw attention to unwanted visitors and deter casual thieves. However, be considerate to your neighbours and site it appropriately (pointing down into your garden, not into their bedroom window). Keep the on-time short. There's no point it staying on for half an hour every time a cat goes past. A motion-sensor light outside your front door is also a good idea, but make it reasonable. A 500W halogen light in your face is not a great way to welcome your visitors! Don't hide spare keys under plant pots or doormats. Wherever you might think of hiding a key, a thief would probably think to look in the same place.
Alarms & CCTV
Alarms are a great way to deter thieves but should be considered a supplement, not an alternative to good security. Choose an alarm carefully; ensuring it is appropriate for your property. Make sure the alarm box is sited appropriately so that it can be seen and heard from the street. Ideally, it should not be possible to tell from outside if the alarm is armed or not. (Flashing lights are all very nice, but make it obvious when you forget to arm it one night.) Some alarm systems can alert a security service when they are triggered. This gives the best protection, shop around as is quite costly. Some insurance companies give discounts for having an alarm. You may also be required to use your alarm in accordance with your insurer’s dictates, and failure to do so by any member of the family could result in your claim being declined. False alarms are a nuisance to your neighbours (who will eventually just ignore it), so try to ensure your alarm does not keep going off unnecessarily. Some alarm systems include features to prevent false alarms. If you hear a neighbour's alarm, don't just ignore it. Look out of your window or go outside to have a look. However, don't put yourself at risk by entering their property to investigate. If you suspect someone is there then call the police immediately. Take note of anything suspicious such as a description of anyone you see leaving, or the details of any unusual vehicles that are nearby, as well as noting the date and time.
Home CCTV systems have dropped in price considerably, but you should think carefully before installing one. Unless you install a system that continually records the images somewhere secure (i.e. not easily stolen by the burglar that broke in!) they may be of limited use, other than as a deterrent. The cameras need to be situated somewhere they cannot easily be tampered with (e.g. cable cut or camera obscured). You must also make sure the camera only points at your own property, so you don't get accused of "spying" on your neighbours or people in the street.
Leaving your home unoccupied
When leaving your home unoccupied, don't make it obvious that you are away. Don't leave notes at your door telling people you are away. Remember to cancel the milk and newspapers and ask a neighbour to push in any mail left in the letterbox. You may also wish to use the Royal Mail "Keepsafe" service. (For a small fee they will hold on to your mail until your return.) Remember that anything that looks different from normal will draw attention to your house. Leaving an outside light on when you don't normally do so, for example, can actually draw attention to your house and suggest you are away. Curtains open all night or closed all day make a house look unoccupied. (But don't be tempted to leave them half-open - that just makes it look unoccupied night and day!) Ideally, ask a trusted neighbour to keep an eye on your house and open & close the curtains each day. It may seem like an imposition, but you can always return the favour when they're away. Use timers to turn on lights inside your house at appropriate times, but try to make it subtle rather than too obvious (i.e. don't put a bright lamp next to the window). Remember, you're trying to make it look like someone's in, not highlighting there's nobody there. Hide away any small items of special value such as jewellery or important documents, don't just leave them lying around. It won't stop a determined thief looking for something specific, but may be missed by a casual thief in a hurry. Consider buying a safe if you have items of high value. If you are leaving a car at home then consider leaving it in the driveway rather than in the garage. Of course this depends on how valuable your car is and how you feel about leaving it outside. The benefit is that it's less obvious your house in unoccupied, but the downside is your car is more at risk. Another option is to ask a neighbour with two cars if they are willing to park one of theirs in your driveway.
Before leaving remember to check all around your house to make sure everything is turned off and all doors and windows are locked. Arm your alarm if you have one, and make sure a neighbour has appropriate contact details in case there are any problems.
When leaving your vehicle (for no matter how long) always remove any valuable items such as satellite navigation systems or removable hi-fi equipment. Hide away anything that a potential thief may think could be worth stealing, even if you know it isn't. For example, even if you know your old jacket or sports bag on the back seat isn't worth anything, a thief may break your window to steal it thinking that it is, or hoping it might contain a wallet or mobile phone. Never leave wallets, handbags and other such valuables in the car, even hidden away. Be aware of anyone loitering nearby as you leave your car, especially if you are hiding stuff away in the boot. Even when leaving your vehicle briefly (e.g. to pay for fuel at a petrol station or post a letter) make sure you turn off, remove the key and lock the vehicle. Opportunist thieves can take advantage of just such a momentary lapse of security to make off with your vehicle or belongings before you even realise what's happening. If you are leaving passengers in the car then you may not wish to lock them in, but at least turn off and remove the key. There have been cases of cars stolen from garage forecourts complete with children in the back!
Thieves don't always have to break in to get into your house. Sometimes they can just knock and be invited in. Most people who call at your home will be genuine, but sometimes people can turn up at your door unannounced with the intention of tricking you into letting them into your home, or conning you into giving them money or personal details. Always be wary of anyone you don't know who calls at your door, no matter how honest and genuine they may appear.
A bogus caller may attempt to trick their way into your home to steal valuables, cash or car keys. They can be very convincing and persuasive, using one of many different excuses to gain entry. Examples of such excuses include:
- to read your meter
- to check for gas leaks or perform some other safety inspection
- to give you security advice
- to use your toilet or wash their hands
- to make a phone call or get urgent help because of an accident
- to look for a lost pet
They may be smartly dressed or wearing a convincing looking uniform, and have a convincing looking ID badge or card. They may talk you into going to get something (e.g. pretending they need to check your utility bill) so they can steal from your hallway while you leave them alone at the door. Sometimes they work with an accomplice who tries to enter by a back door or window while they distract you at the front door.
Callers may also be trying to sell you sub-standard goods or services, such as building work or repairs, driveways, tree cutting, etc. They often pressure you into making a decision there and then, claiming that repairs are needed urgently or that their offer is for "today only". If you do engage them they may ask for some payment up front and then never complete the job.
Unfortunately, although most charity collectors are genuine there are some people who will prey on your generosity and collect money by pretending to represent a charity. There are in fact some organisations that are operating completely legally, but only giving a small percentage of their collections to charity, pocketing the rest as profit.
It's also possible that a bogus caller may just be fishing for information, gaining your trust and then casually asking questions about your holiday plans for example, or trying to establish how long a neighbour is away. They may pretend to be selling alarms or security devices, asking about what you have, or "casing the joint", looking in your hallway to see where you keep your keys and jackets (potentially containing wallets), etc.
How to protect yourself
Before answering your door, always make sure your back door is locked (with the key removed) and windows closed. If you have a "peep-hole" then look through it first to see who is there. If you do not know the caller then put on the door chain (if you have one) before opening the door. Don't remove the chain until you are satisfied the caller is genuine. Ask to see the caller's identity card, and examine it carefully (don't just give it a cursory glance). If they don't want to let you examine it properly then don't let them in. A genuine caller will not mind if you take their card and close the door while you examine it. Unfortunately anyone can easily create a convincing looking ID card these days, so if you are not sure then call their organisation to check if they are genuine. However, don't just call the number shown on the card (it may just be an accomplice's number). Look up the company in the phone book. Don't assume whatever the caller tells you is true. This may seem like stating the obvious, but a skilled con artist can often convince even the most wary people to believe their story with some appropriate patter. If they say your house requires urgent repairs then get an independent professional opinion rather than taking their word for it. Don't give away any information the caller does not need to know, such as your phone number, personal details or holiday plans. Again, this may seem obvious, but it's easy to be caught off guard once they've gained your trust with some friendly conversation and they ask you a seemingly innocent and casual question. If you are uncomfortable about questions they are asking then just tell them you need to go, and close the door. Don't keep large amounts of cash in your home. Don't leave wallets, keys and other valuables near the door or where they can be seen from the door when you open it.
When out and about at night, avoid walking through unlit or secluded areas if possible. Try to keep to the roads rather than isolated paths. If you feel uncomfortable about a stranger or group of youths ahead then cross to the other side of the road before you reach them. Don't engage with them and avoid eye contact. If you are threatened or intimidated then try first to ignore them and move away. If you are attacked then try to make as much noise as possible (e.g. shout or scream) or carry a personal attack alarm (these often have very loud sirens) to draw attention and try to get away.