That may seem like very obvious advice, but the fact is that thousands of burglaries are committed every year by thieves who gained entry into their victim’s homes by being invited in! There are many tricks that burglars use to get their victims to let them into their homes. Once inside, it is much easier for a criminal to rob a house, ‘case the joint,’ or assault the occupant.

Fake Building Inspectors. One very common trick is the fake building inspector. This is an old trick that never goes away – because it works! What should you do if a stranger shows up at your door and says he’s a building inspector, a health inspector, the fire marshal, or some other government official, and asks you to let him in?  Just Say No!  Give him my phone number and tell him politely, but firmly, “Speak to my landlord.” Do not let him in! Real building inspectors make appointments in advance and will normally contact the landlord or property manager first, not the tenant.

The Furnace Inspectors. I used to own a house on Milvia Street near campus. Many years ago, one of my tenants there, a U.C. Berkeley student, let 2 men into his house who showed up unexpectedly. They said they were Berkeley city furnace inspectors. Once they were inside the house, these so-called furnace inspectors tied up my tenant and robbed the place. Fortunately, my tenant wasn’t physically injured, but he and his roommates lost a lot of property. After the robbery, I asked my tenant: “Why did you let these guys in? Weren’t you suspicious?” My tenant told me that he that he was suspicious and asked these men to show him I.D. before he let them in. One of the men handed my tenant a flyer titled ‘Furnace Safety’ with the City of Berkeley logo on it. Based on that – and that alone – my tenant let these 2 men into his house. My tenant showed me the flyer. I recall looking at the flyer and thinking: ‘This is pathetic.’ The flyer was just a list of furnace safety tips. It began with: ‘Don’t store flammable liquids like gasoline next to your furnace.’ I told my tenant that I had seen this flyer before, and that it was not I.D. You could pick up one of these flyers at any public library in Berkeley. I also told my tenant: “There are no city furnace inspectors. The city of Berkeley doesn’t have any furnace inspectors.” I don’t know of any city that has furnace inspectors.

Don’t Be Fooled By Appearances. Professional burglars don’t look or sound like burglars. If they did, nobody would let them in! Some burglars wear business suits, carry attache cases, and come with phony I.D. and documents that look authentic. Criminals posing as government officials often try to gain entry by intimidation. They may threaten to have you fined or arrested for refusing to allow them to come in. The more intimidating a person is, the more suspicious you should be! The fact is this – you cannot be fined or arrested  for refusing to allow a government inspector into your home unless he has a Search Warrant signed by a judge and stating exactly what it is that he is looking for. That’s in the Constitution!

The Boston Strangler. How dangerous is it to let uninvited strangers into your home? In 1962 and 1963, 13 women in the Boston area were killed by the Boston Strangler. All of these women were murdered in their own homes. All were raped and then strangled with articles of their own clothing. They were all respectable women who led quiet lives. The police were baffled because there was never any sign of forced entry. The Boston Strangler was front page news all over the U.S. and around the world. In 1964, Albert DeSalvo was arrested and confessed to all 13 murders. When he was asked how he gained entry into his victim’s homes, he said he simply followed a woman home, knocked on the door of her apartment and asked if he could come in. He claimed to be a handyman who had been hired by the landlord to check the apartment’s plumbing. He wore work clothes and carried a bucket of plumbing tools. If a woman showed any reluctance to let him in, he just left and then followed another woman to her apartment. He never tried to force his way in. All of the women killed by the Boston Strangler voluntarily let him into their homes, even though everyone in Boston knew there was a strangler loose in the city. OK. I know that this story sounds scary, but I am telling it to you because it could save your life!