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Message from Slough police station,Tuesday 17 November.

Police are warning members of the public to be vigilant against distraction burglaries, as the Home Office launched its 'National Distraction Burglary Awareness Campaign' this week.

These crimes occur when an offender calls on a property with the intention of tricking their way into the home to commit burglary. These people are 'distraction burglars', also known as 'bogus callers' and their aim is to distract, so that they can steal money and valuables.

Bogus callers may be smartly dressed and claim to be from the council, the police, a utility company or a health organisation. They may ask for a drink of water, to wash their hands or to use the telephone in an emergency. They may sometimes claim to have lost a pet or a ball in the back garden. They may also work with an accomplice, who steals from the property whilst you are engaged in conversation.

The majority of people who call on homes are genuine, but we would like people to be aware of this kind of crime and to take some simple steps to avoid becoming a victim. The simple routine of 'lock, stop, chain, check' can prevent an offender gaining access to your home.

The following advice is recommended to guard against distraction burglaries:

1. LOCK - Keep your front and back doors locked, even when at home.

2. STOP - Before you answer the door, stop and think if you are expecting anyone. Check that you have locked any back door and taken the key out. Look through the spy-hole or the window to see who it is.

3. CHAIN - If you decide to open the door, put the door chain or bar on first. Keep the chain or bar on while you are talking to the person on the doorstep. (Normally when the door is shut and locked, leave the chain or bar off in case you need to get out in an emergency.)

4. CHECK - Check their details and identity before you let them into your home. If it is someone looking for help only go out to help if you have someone else with you. Don't worry if you choose not to go to help - it is not rude or unfriendly. If it is someone claiming to be an official, ask for and carefully check their identity card, make sure the caller's name and picture are the same as on the identity card, even if the visit is pre-arranged. A genuine caller will be happy to make an appointment to call back and will carry an identity card with a photograph. They won't mind waiting if you want to phone and confirm their identity with the company concerned.

Distraction burglars do not usually break in or use force or threats, rather they take advantage of the victim's vulnerability or good nature, so that when residents agree to help them or engage in conversation, a burglary is committed. We would ask everyone to be wary of any callers that arrive unannounced and to remember that you do not have to allow them entry in to your home. If in doubt, keep them out.