You know all the basic rules, right? Lock your doors, don’t dawdle while getting into your car, don’t walk across campus alone, etc. But there seems to be this huge error in judgment that we all make: letting complete strangers into our home, just so long as they’re wearing a uniform.
I can’t count the number of times someone from the utility company has showed up on my doorstep explaining that they just need to “read the meter” and then they’ll be on their way. Being from a small town in Montana, the truth is, they probably wouldn’t even have to be dressed in a uniform and I would take their word for it. So many people out here do business dressed in clothes for the weather; meaning their “uniform” is often hidden under sturdy snow boots and Carhartt overalls anyway.
Problem is, though, that more and more criminals are catching on to this trick, and as naïve as college students are, more and more people are becoming victims of it. Instead of breaking into a house, all they need to do is calmly explain that they’re from the cable company and there’s something wrong with your service, and instead of forcing their way into your car, they just have to get you to step outside of it with some “broken tail-light” comment. Not good. So let’s look at some ways you can protect yourself in this situation.
1.) Ask for proof. Sure they may be in uniform, but a real police officer (even the campus police) will have a badge with a badge number, and will most likely not be alone. Even workers from utility companies or delivery companies will have some sort of identification that proves they indeed work for the company they claim to work for.
2.) Ask for specifics. If they spout off some short “I need to see your meter” reasoning, ask about it. “Why?” “What’s the problem with it?” “Who else has been reporting this issue?” “How long has it been going on?” “Can I read it myself and just give you the answer?” Or most importantly, “My meter is outside, so why do you need to come inside the house?”
3.) Know how things work. As mentioned above, if someone claiming to be from the gas company asks to come inside to “read your meter” that might be the first sign something is wrong, since your meter is never kept inside your house. In addition, there’s no reason for the cable company to show up at your house unless you’ve specifically called them, and if you have a burnt out tail-light an you will never have to get out of the car to “see it,” no matter what the “officer” says. Understanding these simple concepts will help you sniff out when someone isn’t being completely honest with you.
4.) Don’t be afraid to call and check. If they say they’re from the electric company, ask for the phone number and have them to wait for a second while you call the company to make sure. If they claim to be a police officer, call 911 and ask if a police officer was indeed dispatched to your location. It only takes a second, and there’s nothing wrong with being sure.
5.) Report suspicious behavior. If someone does come to your door, and after you ask the appropriate questions (see above), they decide they’ll just “come back later,” they’re probably impersonating. Call the company to make sure they sent someone to your house. If they didn’t, then call the police and explain what just happened, for your future safety and that of others.