We're living in an ever changing world. For each scam detected, criminals seem to have an inexhaustible supply of others to replace them with. You might remember I recently posted 20 ways to prevent identity fraud and also looked at the dangers of not staying on top of your direct debits.
Today, in a similar vein, and again in the hope of helping you to prevent misuse of your personal information, I wanted to share a couple of recent, very worrying, incidents here at Rosie Central.
First though, could we talk about something close to many peoples (including mine) hearts honeys, charities. Ah, but what could possibly be unsafe about donating Rosie? I hear you say. Well, that brings us to the two quite disturbing incidents I mentioned above.
We all have our favourite charities don't we? Hubby and I certainly do. We enjoy, and look forward to, regularly supporting them. What we don't look forward to is the increasingly regular, and increasingly more aggressive, visits of door to door charity collectors.
The charity sector has taken a bit of a bashing in the media lately. There have been too many reports of excessive pay and remuneration packages to charity heads, and to celebrities willing to publicly endorse the charities work, meaning of course far less money makes it to help intended aid recipients.
There have also been countless complaints of aggressive street collectors, more commonly referred to as "chuggers" using unscrupulous methods, from emotional blackmail to intimidation, to obtain people's bank details on direct debit forms. These "chuggers" do not work for the charities involved, instead they usually work on a commission basis, being paid for each person they manage to obtain details from.
Even more worrying though is the practice of selling on the names and addresses of donors. A despicable practice which can make kind hearted donors lives a complete misery when they are inundated with emotionally upsetting mail asking for donations and one which also carries the risk of fraudsters too obtaining their details. This terrible practice has even claimed at least one life.
Not all charities behave in this manner of course, and we make it a rule not to support any who do. After floods of complaints from members of the public regarding what amounts to on-street harassment by these "chuggers" some local authorities have banned them altogether in city centres. The charities response to this has been to move the practice from shopping malls and town centres to our door steps instead.
Almost two weeks ago, around mid evening while I was at work, Hubby (and our furbaby Jade) were disturbed by a very loud, heavy and persistent thumping on our front door. Hubby went to the door to find a woman claiming to represent UNICEF. Our area is not an rich one by any means, but we have charity collectors call round every couple of weeks. This lady however wasn't wearing the usual t shirt or jacket sporting the charity's name or logo and she had no ID, which they always wear clearly visible around their neck on a lanyard. What she did have was a bundle of direct debit mandates in her hand in order to take bank details.
Hubby told me the lack of any visible ties to UNICEF weren't the only clues that this lady might not be a genuine collector, since she didn't launch into the (very obviously) pre-prepared script which our other callers usually do. Hubby politely told the lady she wasn't getting our bank details and she turned and walked away immediately without even a goodbye. In case you've had a similar experience, UNICEF give advice on how to tell whether their fundraisers are genuine.
Fast forward a week later honeys to the following Friday lunchtime. Jade and I were home alone, since Hubby was at work. As I usually do around this time I was in the kitchen making a start on dinner. Hubby and I pass each other at the door on a Friday since we work our shifts around our furbaby. She's a very nervous wee dog and doesn't like to be alone so I work nights on the weekend while Hubby is at the office during the day on weekdays.
Having popped some chicken into the oven for dinner I then headed for the bathroom to have my shower, wash my hair and get dressed for work. No sooner had I switched on the shower than there was a tremendous thumping at the front door. I opened the door to find a man possibly in his late thirties - early forties on our step wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, unshaven and clutching what appeared to be rolled up leaflets of some kind, although I couldn't read what was printed on them.
He began saying that our home was eligible for the Government's Green Deal Programme - to help people improve the energy efficiency of their homes. We've had representatives of this scheme many (many) times at our door trying to get us to sign up (thereby giving up our personal details) but each and every time the representative has been very smartly dressed. They also always have visible photographic ID around their neck on a lanyard and carry a clipboard with forms on.
This man had none of these things. I repeatedly told him we knew about the scheme and weren't interested but he simply wouldn't take no for an answer. A thought suddenly began to drift through my mind that, being mid day, most of my neighbours were at work and wouldn't hear me if I called for help and I just wanted to close the door. I repeated to this man that I wasn't interested and had to get ready to go to work and he appeared to move his foot towards our front door.
I said to him, quite loudly, (so out of character for me! I'm so grateful to my inner strong person - I didn't know she was in there) "don't you dare put your foot in my door or you'll get my walking stick between your eyes!" By my hand, standing in our tiny entrance way were two of my walking sticks, the pretty ones I use for work, since this is where they are kept. I must have sounded convincing because the man drew his foot back again and I said "thank you" and quickly closed and locked the front door.
I walked through into our living room and sat on the sofa and it took me a moment or two to realize I was shaking. It's entirely possible that I misjudged this man at our door honeys, but I had the strongest feeling of being unsafe and, with all of the terrible things happening in the world, would rather trust my gut and feel silly afterwards than take unnecessary risks.
A side note to this (quite frightening if I'm honest) incident is that I hadn't had time to make sure our shower curtain was sitting properly and so when I became aware that I'd left the shower running this whole time I had already flooded our bathroom :/ I decided that my next blog post (this one) would go someway to warn of our experiences and hopefully suggest ways to stay safe while at home.
How To Stay Safe When Dealing With Cold Callers..
The best way to be safe at home honeys is not to wait (as I have) until you feel threatened to take security measures to keep yourself (and your family) safe. This is especially important for elderly ladies and gentlemen who are sometimes targeted. For instance you could:
1. Contact your local community police station and ask for your crime prevention officer to give you a call to arrange an appointment to meet with him or her. This service is free and your local officer will visit your home and will walk through it giving advice on how to make your home more secure.
Each Police force has it's own contact for this service (which you'll find in your local yellow pages or phone book) but this link will take you to the London Metropolitan Police website's crime prevention page where you'll find lots of wonderful advice and information to keep you and your family safe.
2. Fit a secure metal chain to your front door and never open your front door when home alone without first snapping the chain in place.
3. You can also have a simple security viewer fitted to allow you to see who is outside before opening the door and in these wonderful days of technology, you can also fit a camera linked to a channel on your television, or to your smart phone, to be able to see who your visitor is so that you need never go near the door.
4. If you prefer, before opening the front door ask the visitor who they are and if they do require access to your home, for example a gas or electricity meter reader, ask them to pass you their ID through the letterbox, asking them to be patient and telling them you are going to call their company to check they are who they say they are and are expected to be in your area.
If genuine, the caller will have no problems with you doing this since utility companies are in favour of this practice to keep their customers safe.
5. Place a sign on your front door requesting that cold callers do not visit. A simple sign would do, it needn't be anything elaborate. I've made a simple sign (which I'm going to print, laminate and attach to our front door.) It looks like this...
Just print to the size required and either laminate it, cover with clear tape on the door or use a small sticky backed plastic wallet. Placing your printout inside and attaching to the door to prevent it's message becoming unclear to callers in case of rainy weather.
If callers persist in spite of your having a sign on your door, contact your local community police officer or the charity or organization they claim to represent and report the incident..
When in doubt, even if you just feel unsure or have a nagging feeling in your gut, simply do not open the door. Your safety, and that of your family and furbabies, must be your most important consideration.
How To Safely Donate To CharityAs I said above, of course not every charity uses unscrupulous methods to enlist your help to their cause and there are many ways to safely help your favourite causes...
1. If you'd like to donate money do so through their official website, after making the usual checks to ensure it is a valid site affiliated to the organization concerned. Such websites will have contact details listed. Do your research honeys. There is a wonderful page here supplied by the Welsh Police Force with lots of useful advice regarding charity fraud and other cyber crime.
2. Why not donate by taking no longer needed items along to your local charity shop for your favourite cause?
3. Why not volunteer your time? Many causes desperately need volunteers, from charity shops needing part time staff, local animal shelters needing helpers to care for their furbaby charges, to local elderly homes who would love visitors willing to give a little much needed company to often lonely residents.
There is a great site called volunteer match which can find wonderful opportunities, you can find them here.
4. If you ever feel under pressure from any charity or organization, there is a complaints procedure and they have an ombudsman whose duty is to investigate and to help.
Till next time dear ones, I'm sending you all so many hugs and wishing you a fabulous fun filled week. Smile lots and hug even more, huggles always xx