Sainsbury's home insurance has found that almost three million households have been targeted by bogus callers or distraction burglars in the last five years, causing it to issue a warning to trusting householders.
Distraction burglary – whereby one burglar keeps the attention of the householder by claiming to be from a bogus organisation while an accomplice robs them – has affected 2.8million people, or six per cent of the UK adult population.
The average victim of distraction burglars has had £1,230 worth of belongings stolen from their home.
Older people are more likely to be victims of distraction burglaries, the research shows, but other age groups are also vulnerable, and the Government set up the Distraction Burglary Task Force in 2000 to tackle this type of crime.
But, despite these efforts, less than half of victims told the police that they were distracted, and Sainsbury's warns that a home insurance policy might not pay out if the crime has not been reported to the police.
Further data from Sainsbury's home insurance reveals that domestic burglary rose in 2009 for the first time in six years.
Commenting on the figures, Ben Tyte, manager of Sainsbury's home insurance, said: "We'd strongly recommend that homeowners take basic steps to protect themselves, whether this is by using a door bar or chain or simply contacting an organisation if a caller arrives unscheduled."
He added: "It's also a worry that such a large number of victims don't report the crime to the police. Crimes such as this can have a very damaging psychological effect and we'd strongly encourage anyone who suspects a distraction burglar to report them. What's more victims could invalidate their home insurance policies if they fail to report the crime."
Common guises used by distraction burglars include pretending to be from a utility company, the most used persona, followed by posing as a door-to-door salesperson or representing a charity.
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