Staying Safe in the Wake of Social Distancing

Stop! Stop what you’re doing and read this four-minute reminder. Do not hire anyone until you read this! Avoid becoming a victim! Be on the lookout. Read this ASAP!

In the next several months, as people move away from major social gatherings and activities, it’s important to take extra precaution and be on the lookout for smooth-talking strangers looking to con you. This includes individuals who may be providing service on your home, vehicle, or other property, and especially for your family and loved ones. Our elderly people are monumentally vulnerable right now. They come from an era when citizens took pride in doing good deeds. Nowadays, instead, many of these are simply opportunities for criminals to take advantage of people.

Many regular, day-to-day interactions between people can be manipulated by creeps with sticky fingers or bad intentions. Most of the crimes are non-violent. The perpetrator is just looking to take easy advantage during trying times when people may be purposely limiting contact or activity levels. Criminals can be very adept at moving your attention away from something important. For example, would-be service providers avoiding your insistence that they provide solid identifying information before you agree to their services. They are very good at deflection and changing the subject many times over to hurry you along into agreeing and paying them.

As state-licensed Private Investigators, we have personally caught contractors and subcontractors, handymen, maintenance people, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, carpet and flooring installers, landscapers and landscape maintenance workers, pool service workers, house keepers, nannies, babysitters, care givers, window cleaners, janitorial service workers, mobile mechanics, food delivery services, postal workers, ride share services, and many others engaging in illegal activities and crimes against other citizens. Most of the time, they get away with it. Too often, the victims regretfully had not done much to verify the identity of a person before they hired or paid them. This is usually the reason police do not seem too interested. There is no magic way to catch people. Without leads and evidence, it would be a waste of taxpayer money and valuable time.

Many companies in these service industries do not pre-screen their employees for criminal records because of laws preventing them from conducting a background check as a condition of hiring. Some companies do not care, and many will go even farther and lie to you about having checked their staff before hiring them. Many of these companies knowingly employ criminals with felony records and they now have access to you. Check reviews for the person or company online. Simply type their company name and reviews (i.e., John Doe Plumbing reviews). You may be surprised by the results.

It’s important to beware of the violent crimes, too. Home invasion, car theft and carjacking, assault, battery, smash and grab, and other opportunistic crimes will be increasing as people become bolder out of desperation for money or supplies. Already, hospitals are being inundated with too many people requesting medical supplies and Covid-19 tests. This very well may get worse before it gets better. County courts are closed and city halls are no longer taking walk-in customers. District Attorney’s offices have already instructed police not to arrest and detain anyone other than criminals that have committed violent felonies. This is an open opportunity for petty crimes and worse.

Be careful with answering calls from unfamiliar numbers, especially those who may be calling to offer their services.

Be careful of who you answer the door for, especially if it’s at an odd hour or you’re not expecting company. It may be a good idea to let the person know you are home but do not answer. Simply tell them through the door, window or intercom, you’re busy and do not want to be bothered.

When we conduct surveillance, sometimes, someone may notice us in our vehicle for several hours. We may get a visit by the police. Perfectly fine. No problem. Most of the time we call the police ahead of time and let them know we are in the area on stake-out.

Watch out for people standing around loitering or sitting in vehicles that are out of place. They may be a lookout for a partner in crime or waiting for the opportunity to enter a house when an occupant leaves, is finally alone, or goes to sleep. 

If you see strange or questionable behavior, do not hesitate to call the police so they can make a simple, routine contact with the person or persons. Do not approach suspicious people or make a show of watching them. Do not threaten to call police. Instead, act natural, just call the police and let them do what they are trained for. Chances are the suspicious person will not know who called the police anyway. You may stop a crime or save a life.

Before engaging a service provider or a contractor, you must copy down their vehicle description and license plate. You need to copy their identification and be comfortable that their I.D. matches the information they have told you. Too many people who ask us for help after they have been victimized, have almost no information. What they do have is often misspelled or made-up.

If you are using a contractor, get their state license number and actual legal business name. Verify it. Get a quote in writing from them with a performance clause indicating the cost and the scope of work to be done, as well as the time it will take to complete the work. Make sure you understand whether the estimate includes both materials and time. This will serve to protect both of you if a misunderstanding arises.

Simply having a name and a telephone number is not good enough. Many people are using phones that are not registered to them. DON’T be fooled.

If you decide to knowingly use an unlicensed or undocumented person for work, you need to collect their vehicle information and their identification as well as ask for their current address and phone number.

Whether you initiated contact with a potential vendor through an advertisement or other means, or someone has solicited you to do work for you, the precautions should be the same. If anyone in these scenarios is unwilling to or has ANY excuse for not providing their detailed information,  DO NOT hire them. Do not let them inside your house. You can always say you need to think about it and will call them back later.

Some of the worst offenders we come across were referred by others, and still ended up ripping everyone off because no one knew how to find them. They are good at what they do. If  you’ve been victimized, call us. We’re good at catching bad guys.

In times like these, we all need to be calm and comfortable, not scared or paranoid. Just use your brain and proceed thoughtfully. Live life as usual but be aware of your surroundings and don't fall prey to would-be thieves.

No matter the reason, if you need to talk with a licensed private investigator with over 37 years’ experience, you are welcome to call us and discuss your concern, in confidence and with no obligation. We are happy to be of assistance.

Published on: 
March 21, 2020
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