Don’t risk safety for fear of offending stranger

A woman shows up at your door in the night and asks to use the telephone as she’s run out of gas. What do you do? Given two recent incidents like this in the Sault with dastardly results, we should all be thinking about what we would do to protect ourselves, our families, and our property.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so perhaps it’s time to stop worrying about coming across as rude. I’d rather be called inhospitable than a patsy.

According to the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service website, in the first crime on January 16, 2015, around 8:30 p.m. a woman went to a home on Railroad Avenue and asked to use a phone to call a family member as she had run out of gas. Once inside, the woman made several calls and used the washroom before leaving. For her kindness, the homeowner was repaid by being duped out of her pearl earrings, necklace, and her purse.

In the second, two females showed up at a home on Hampton Road at 3 a.m., again asking to use the telephone as they’d run out of gas. One of them made a call and the second asked to use the bathroom. Once they’d left, the homeowner noticed he was missing medication.

The Sault Ste. Marie Police Service press release reminds homeowners to not let strangers into your home and “If you feel that you want to help the person, offer to make the call for them. If you have a portable phone, offer to let them use it while they are outside.”

Unfortunately, most of us were taught to be polite and hospitable, not thinking of the possible negative consequences. We seem to risk our own safety over the fear of offending someone else. However, especially in our own homes, we have the right to be a little rude to uninvited guests with suspicious stories.

It’ll be bikini weather in January when I am excited to see a stranger at my door. Be you a religious zealot trying to convert me, a salesperson from a shady power company, or someone looking for an easy mark for a scam, you’ve come to the wrong address.

Perhaps I’ll get a rocking chair, a shotgun, and some chewing tobacco and I’ll sit in wait for some strange woman to tell me she’s run out of gas. (Okay maybe not the chewing tobacco.) Kidding aside, since it’s hard to find a rocking chair, I think it’s important to remember that the best defense can be a good offense.

I don’t answer the door if it’s a stranger unless I am on the telephone with someone and they can hear what’s happening. My mother has had to listen through more than one conversation with a canvasser for a charity or a Jehovah’s Witness for that very reason. If something goes wrong, she can call the police.

Or, make a “rule” for yourself (like you tell your kids): “Don’t let strangers into the house… EVER!” You can still be helpful, without letting strangers into your sanctuary.

How? Offer to call the auto club for them (ask for their car make, model, and licence plate number and write them down). Or, politely let them know where the nearest gas station or telephone is located.

Not sure if the request is legit? Call their “bluff.” Tell them that you have a small jerry can of gas that you can give them and that you’ll meet them at their car and help them start it (ask for the make, model, and license plate number). Or ask them to point out their car. If it isn’t in sight of your front door ask them why they came to your house. Feeling suspicious at any time? Take a photo of them through the door or call the police.

Remember, most people wouldn’t go to a stranger’s house if they ran out of gas… they’d have a cellular telephone, or they’d flag down a motorist, or they’d walk to the nearest telephone or gas station.

Thieves are smart, but you can be smarter. They are counting on your kindness to prey upon you. Risk being rude and ask a few questions, or to be safe, just don’t answer the door.

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