Have you ever had someone knock on your door and ask to use the telephone? Or to check your gas meter? This could have been legitimate requests–but they could also be scams that are designed to case your home and, sometimes, even rob you right at that moment. You should always be wary of strangers coming to your home, and you should always verify that they are there for the reason that they said they are.
1. The Sewer Line Employee Scam
An employee in a jumper shows up at your door and tells you that, unfortunately, the sewer line in the neighborhood has flooded and they need to check with you to make sure that your yard hasn’t been damaged. (Other variants may claim that it was a water main or some other form of leak.) The employee will then coax you into your backyard and ask you questions about your home–but this is only a delay tactic.
While you’re distracted and in your backyard, the employee’s accomplices will be stealing any expensive, small items within your home. From jewelry to electronics, the goal is to empty you out before you even notice that you’re being robbed.
2. The Phone Call or Bathroom Scam
If you’re generally cautious about who you let into your home, you might be relieved to find that the stranger that you allowed to make a phone call or use the bathroom simply walked away afterwards. But in many cases, their goal is to walk away–they aren’t there to rob you by force, but instead to take a look at your home and what is in it. They will look for security systems and valuables so that they can come back later, when you’re not at home, to rob you.
Though you may want to be polite, you always have the right to tell someone that you aren’t comfortable letting them into your home. If they need to use a phone, you can always give them a cell phone instead.
3. The “Lost My Dog” (Or Cat) Scam
A worried man or woman shows up at your door and shows you a flyer. “I’ve lost my dog, can you help me look?” they ask. What differentiates this scam from an ordinary concerned pet owner is that they will usually be so distressed that they ask you to come out and canvas the neighborhood with them (most pet owners will be happy with you just taking a flyer).
As with the sewer line scam, the goal is to get you out of the house so that their partner can enter in through the backdoor. While you may be feeling neighborly, it isn’t a good idea to leave your house with someone you don’t know either. Often, the person who asks for help may be a young woman or similarly unimposing, so that you feel urged to help. Don’t fall for the bait–if you must go, make sure that someone else stays home.
If you feel uncertain about someone who has come to your home, call your local police department. They will be more than happy to swing by and verify the credentials of the individual that you’re talking to. Don’t feel shy about questioning someone–it’s always better to be safe rather than potentially put your home and your family at risk.