The Sad Reality

It may sound cynical, even a little misanthropic, but the sad fact of the matter is that most strangers who show up at your door are probably not nice people. They may come bearing sob stories about how they need two or three or five or ten dollars to buy baby formula or bus or taxi fare or a shave and a haircut before their first job interview in two years, but they’re really just going to blow it on, yes, drugs or booze.

Thing is, a couple of bucks for a quick fix usually isn’t the only reason they’re at your door. No, most of them have slightly grander ambitions, I’m afraid.

They’d like to steal your stuff.

When you answer the door, they’re sizing you up. Are you young or old? Are you alone? When you turn down their request, what sort of valuable information do you disclose? Was the door locked when you answered it, or did you have to unbolt it? Do you have a dog?

Don’t give them money. Don’t tell them your entire life story. Don’t try to become their new best friend. Don’t make excuses. Just tell them “no”, and close and lock the door. If you’re really civic-minded, make a note of the date and time, their description, and whatever they were driving, including license plate, if you can see it.

Door-to-door begging is an astonishingly common technique to case homes to burglarize, because it’s relatively low risk. Go through a neighborhood two or three times, looking for potential targets, and you quickly get a pretty good idea of who’s always home and who, say, works third shift. Find an attractive target, knock on the door. Someone answers, maybe you learn something interesting that’ll help you return at a later date to take their stuff. Nobody answers, well, maybe the door’s unlocked, hmmn?

Recently, someone tried to break into my house using just this technique. It was 10pm, and they knocked on the door. I was in my office, writing on the computer; by the time I’d grabbed a can of pepper-spray and made it to the front door, they were trying the handle. When I flipped the lights on, they hit me with a sob story about needing money for baby formula.

I shut the door in their face and locked it, and watched them leave… walking right past all the neighboring houses with their porch lights on, and the flickering lights of televisions visible in their front windows.

Two or three nights later, someone else tried something almost identical.

Maybe you live in a better neighborhood than I do. Maybe you’re a little less cynical than I, or the local police, are. (An officer I talked to described this sort of casing of houses as “exceedingly common”.) Maybe – if you haven’t had this happen to you (yet!) – you’re just lucky.

Forewarned is forearmed. Lock your doors, and assume that everyone is out to get you, because they probably are. 🙂

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on April 15th, 2011| No Comments »

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