Home security: Beware of conmen masquerading as service providers
What you need to know:
Please be warned that just because someone is wearing the uniform and is flashing a ‘company identity card’ does not guarantee that the person actually works with that institution.
Many of us have been conditioned to think we can identify a criminal by their physical appearance or behaviour after watching TV shows and movies. We think the criminal looks or acts thuggish, but the truth is they do not. Because home invaders and robbers now know there is a stereotype they have decided to up their game and now come in the forms you least suspect.
Some pass themselves off as marketers for various businesses, others come disguised as security personnel while other don the uniform of public utility workers such as Umeme or National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NW&SC).
Please be warned that just because someone is wearing the uniform and is flashing a ‘company identity card’ does not guarantee that the person actually works with that institution as Abia Mutabazi, a resident of Andrews Kakiika, Mbarara City found out.
The fateful day
According to Mutabazi, last month a group of people who purported to be workers of the NW&SC came to her home and robbed her. She believes the group seems to have been scouting her home or had spies in the area that gave them private information about her.
“I had just been disconnected the previous day by NW&SC, so when I left home in the morning a group of three young men, came to my home and told my maid that they were there to sort out our water issues. As they pretended to look at the water metre, one of them asked her to get her a soda from the shops. Because she had reason to suspect these official looking people she dashed off to the shops only to come back and find them gone as well household items they could easily carry TV, gas cooker, flat iron,” narrates Mutabazi.
Another related incident
Paul Kakonge, a resident of Kakoba, Mbarara City recalls how his neighbour also lost household property after people who claimed to have come to repair his vehicle left his house almost empty.
“Such people seem to first visit or investigate the status of the family they want to rob from. Indeed my neighbour had a vehicle that had mechanical problems and had been parked for weeks so when they approached the househelp he assumed they were the right people. He was sent to buy cigarettes for them only to come when they had carried most of the household items,” explains Kakonge adding that they were attracted by the househelp’s alarm and cries after he realised his bosses’ property had been stolen.
“He narrated to us how he had been tricked. We tried to look around for the thieves but they were long gone,” he says.
Who are these criminals?
Disguised service providers can also be used to spy on you. A person will come claiming to be a service provider when they are just spying on you.
“Criminals do not just hit your home without carrying out research first. They come claiming to check faulty metres, water and electricity supply lines and ask the people you leave home a few questions and go. They keep devising new tricks until they have vital information about your home to accomplish their mission,” notes Robert Mujinya, a retired police officer.
Rwizi region police spokesperson Samson Kasasira, explains that police continue to receive such cases although he could not share statistics at the moment.
“True such cases are there and as police, we advise homeowners to always sensitise and train the people at home to be cautious. For example, if someone claims they have been sent to provide a service, first call the person they claim sent them and confirm,” advises Mr Kasasira.
Mujinya also advises homeowners to arm the people they live with including children with some interrogation tactics for strangers including service providers.
“Teach your family members and those you live with to always be cautious. Let them ask to see the person’s national identification besides their work ID, invite a neighbour to come witness whatever they have come to work on and ask to take their picture before you allow them into the house or compound. Such measures will make the disguised service provider suspicious and may abandon his mission,” advises Mujinya.
Unite against the enemy
He adds that homeowners should always collaborate with neighbours through neighbourhood watch, share contacts and have a Whatsapp group so that those left at home can share suspicious information for quick intervention.
He notes that a considerable amount of time and thought goes into carrying out a burglary or home invasion. These criminals spend time studying neighbourhoods until they get their target.
“Fortunately we have technology and we can use it to our advantage. For example make sure there is a phone at home for easy communication in case anyone comes home pretending to offer services while you are away. A phone call can be the difference between losing and saving your property,” says Mujinya.
It is also not uncommon for the criminal to hold a job with a local business that you and many other residents invite into their homes. Businesses that provide residential services such as carpet cleaning, home repair, maid services, and gardening.
While seemingly doing their job they look out for things such as the quality of your personal possessions such as jewelry, electric appliances or furniture the more expensive, the more enticing your home will be to criminals.
So, before allowing such people into your home first make sure they are who they say the are. Ask for their National Identification and references from their local chairperson.
To reduce the risk of becoming the focus of a burglary you need to be vigilant and very selective about who enters your home.
●Never open your door to a stranger.
Keep your windows and doors locked at all times; even when you are home.
●Close your curtains and blinds when you are away from home and before you go to sleep at night.
●Increase the security around your entry doors and windows.
●Do not rely on locked doors and windows as your only means of home security. Home security devices such as Window Protection Film Kits offer excellent protection against the common methods burglars and home invasion criminals use to force their way through locked doors and windows. These inexpensive devices have the potential to save your life.
●Give the impression that someone is home; even when you are not. Leave a radio or TV on loud enough to hear from outside your front door.
●Look into the various devices and apps that allow lights and TVs to be turned on and off remotely using a smart phone or computer, and put them to use.
●Keep your wallet, purse, car keys, and cell phone in the same room with you when you sleep. Never leave these items out in the open in another room.
●If you keep cash, expensive jewelry, firearms, or other items that hold significant monetary or sentimental value to you in your home, invest in a safe that can be securely fastened to the floor or wall, or that is too heavy to move with brute strength.
●In addition, install a cheap diversion safe and keep some fake jewelry and a small amount of cash in it. Make sure to place the diversion safe in a location that is easily found by an intruder. The main safe, of course, should always be well hidden.
●One of the best ways to ensure your home is adequately protected against burglars and cunning home invasion criminals is to have a home security inspection performed. In addition to identifying the vulnerable areas of your home’s security, a certified home inspector can teach you how to decrease your risk of being targeted in the first place.
One of the best ways to ensure your home is adequately protected against burglars and violent home invasion criminals is to have a home security inspection performed. In addition to identifying the vulnerable areas of your home’s security, a certified home inspector can teach you how to decrease your risk of being targeted in the first place.