Imposters and impersonators: Be careful when you open the door

You have probably read this kind of story or heard about something similar happening wherever you live: A homeowner has reported a robbery or a theft that all started when they allowed someone into their home who pretended to be someone else.

“It is possible that these kinds of incidents happen far more often than we would like to think. Opportunistic criminals are always looking for easy targets and they often pretend to be some sort of service provider to get entry to homes where they have no legitimate reason to be,” warns Charnel Hattingh, group head of Communications and Marketing at Fidelity Services Group.

The first step that everyone should take, she says, is to never blindly accept whatever you are told. No matter if it is a phone technician, a municipal inspector, a satellite dish installer, or even a census taker, you should always ask questions.

“These criminals rely on the good-naturedness of people and that whatever story they tell would be accepted at face value without questioning. Current crime levels sadly mean we have to be sceptical and insist on proper identification before opening the door,” says Hattingh.

The advice for residents is to first ask the person for official identification, and for a plausible explanation why they need access to the property. If possible, ask for the phone number of an office or a manager who could independently verify the reasons for the visit. In cases where you still feel uneasy, then the simplest option is to call your closest police station, your neighbourhood watch, or your security company to send someone to come and assist.

“Most reputable service providers will always have staff members with official identification on them and they would only arrive at your doorstep when an appointment has been made. For example, our armed response officers have visible ID badges on them, and our technicians only work on an appointment basis,” says Hattingh.

“Make sure anyone who lives with you – or works in your house when you’re not there – understands the importance of being careful about opening for unknown visitors. We also ask people to report to the SA Police Service any attempts by ‘impersonators’ to enter your home. This information is vital for the police and security agencies to build a better picture of the current crime trends in your suburb,” she concludes.

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