Not beyond the doormat

A bit of coincidence and cockiness probably saved me from an undesirable scenario recently and I want to share it if it can help other Londoners (or indeed people from anywhere in the world).

Somebody rang my doorbell in the day and I ignored it, like I usually do, because I wasn’t expecting anybody. It’s usually people who have got the wrong number or nuisances like leaflet droppers and questioners from charities.

The person rang again and I considered answering the door because they might indeed need some help (as has happened a few times) and no one else seems to be attending to them.

Then I heard loud rapping on my door window and a hand through my letterbox with a voice asking for attention. The first subconscious thought was that this seemed a bit desperate and something told me to hold off answering.

Then the knocking and calling appeared at another window. I hesitated then decided to go there. There was a man in a hi-vis jacket who waved when he saw me. I waved back then proceeded to my front door where the man then re-appeared.

I opened my door with the chain lock on:

“Hello. I’ve gotta come in to read your meter!”
“But I submitted my meter readings a few days ago.” (a lucky truth)
“Well, we have to check them again anyway.”

I noticed he had no insignia of any energy company on his clothing. His ID looked very dubious too – lacking the name of any company or a sufficiently big picture. I went into red alert:

“Can you give me your ID so I can call my energy company to confirm that you’ve been sent out?”
“I can’t do that… Look, just have a look at my ID through the window.” [presses it against window]
“So you’re not going to give me your ID? Right, well that’s understood then.” [a kind of cockiness enters my voice]

You can see a look of hunter-looking-hunted in his eyes as I close the door. He doesn’t ring again, disappears, and no other ‘meter reader’ turns up again. Another reason for suspicion was that this wasn’t the first time I came across a dubious ringer but I had shoo’d such people away before a conversation even developed (you get used to this from nuisance phone callers).

There were a few other things in hindsight that came to mind:

  • He didn’t ring my intercom button, meaning someone else had let him in, perhaps with an excuse such as needing to come to leave a package with an absent household.
  • The guy didn’t even tell me what company he was from or ask for my name – I should’ve said “what’s the name of the customer you’re looking for?”
  • He didn’t have the electronic device to record meter readings on – in fact he had nothing.
  • Lastly, access to my property is a waste of time. My meters can be read by anybody via viewing windows beside the door. Also, no meter reader has been desperate to knock in such a way.

I called 101 (non-emergency) to register this very obvious dodginess (I hedge it was an attempt of distraction theft, based on recent memory of news) but I was miffed at how unarsed the person was. I later read that the Met Police regard 101 as a waste of time. But you can’t call 999 for a crime that didn’t happen.

A friend of mine has a smart meter installed (which I’ve learned is not free as its cost is spread across your energy bills) and he still requires meter reading visits because it’s company policy to do so for a few years to verify the new device’s accuracy. So I guess it’s this fact and that people don’t submit their own readings immediately that helps give these con artists a narrative.

In short, keep a look out. Here’s tips bullet-pointed:

  • If you experience anything like this, let your neighbours know (particularly if they’re elderly/vulnerable) – you have to look out for each other. Inform your local Safer Neighbourhoods team too.
  • If you have an intercom system and that’s not rung, see that as a yellow alert. The intercom is the first vetting point.
  • Ask any caller what customer they’re looking for, maybe be cunning: “Are you here for Mr. Smith’s meters?” “Yes.” “I’m not Mr. Smith.”
  • Ask what company they’re from if not obvious… “Ah, my meters, you’re from Brand X energy company, right?” “Yes.” “I’m not with Brand X, never have been.”
  • Ask for their ID, they must hand it to you. Don’t call any number on it. Find your supplier’s number online or on a bill. Don’t bluff that you’ll call ‘their company’, actually do it for peace of mind. Still not convinced? Then still don’t let them in!
  • If you have manual meters, submit them online as soon as your supplier asks for them. It takes 30 seconds and removes doubts when anyone does come.

Con artists I don’t think are synonymous with break-in-ers (I’m not doing good with finding the right words here), that’s why they’ll act friendly to get in. But if things do get more messy, just call 999. Break-ins are higher risk to criminals now because of the noise alerting the street and mobile video evidence is easy to create via passers-by.

Up to this point I had been a bit cavalier about utility visitors because I never had a dubious experience despite being aware of the possibility. Most people are good but because a few aren’t you have to be careful. I will continue to be.

 

The Orange Goblin

I watch the news, you watch the news, so, we know that the new POTUS has banned entry from 7 predominantly Muslim countries, temporarily, for alleged safety reasons. Notably excluding Saudi Arabia who are the global growers of Islamist terror and who, you know, have the deepest connection to 9/11. They’re also tied to Trump’s business interests.

Sure, it isn’t a blanket Muslim ban since not all Muslims are banned, but the move from measured screening of suspicious individuals is not only resource intensive but also very broadly discriminatory, which has produced justifiable global outrage. Not only does this give feed to Islamists it’s also bizarre on the grounds that the 7 countries are not historical US terror exporters. Although given the ‘favours’ bestowed on them you would not be surprised if they were. Also the funny thing is that the ban covers Muslim-heritage atheists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and of course the vast majority of Muslims who hate fundamentalists as much as Christians do the KKK.

Given that most violent deaths in the US happen by gun-toting white males maybe all countries should ban them? Sounds ludicrous too, doesn’t it?

But let’s be clear, Trump has only been POTUS for a fortnight and while he is obviously an imbecile who would be extremely lucky to have another term, his predecessors (both Obama and Bush) form a contiguity. They have bombed Muslim-majority countries on alarmingly erroneous pretexts and banning is a rather tamer event than killing (but you can bet there will be a Trump war, though he’s not obviously as war-hungry as Hillary). It gets the news headlines because it affects events on US soil and not the camera-barren east.

It was easy to dislike Bush because he was a gormless Republican. It’s easy to dislike Trump because it’s hard to see a redeeming feature (unless you’re a redneck). But I find it easy to dislike Obama too because he didn’t exactly veer between his predecessor and successor, and I admit I was a huge flag-waver of his up until just before second re-election time.

Sure, it was momentous that we had a black president given the history of the US and then a Democrat after 8 years. And while he has done some good things (Obamacare, trying to ban guns) and is clearly highly-educated and statesman-like, he has as much blood on his hands. He gets an easy ride because he comes off likeable and is on a party allied strongly with morality (or was), but beneath the surface he’s just the same. Drone killings and wars that do nothing but fan the fires. He also banned Iraqis in 2011 temporarily but didn’t make the mistake of parading his signature to the cameras like the orange goblin did.

I made it clear that Trump and Hillary are not very different to me. Yes, the latter is smarter but she would do odious things too without looking like a pantomime villain. I actually still dislike her more.

The only good thing about all this is that it should hopefully get the Democrats to wake up for 2020 and for Americans in general to realise that the genie that they’ve unleashed isn’t going to ‘Make America Great Again’.

Were I a US citizen I would’ve voted Jill Stein following Bernie Sanders’ defeat. A wasted vote perhaps, but one I could really sleep at night with.

 

….And Mexico isn’t going to be paying for any wall.

Also, Brexit isn’t automatically equivocal with Trumpism. Yes, it could all become shambolic but that’s not guaranteed. Certainly not many horrors have arisen yet.