I hope all is going well. It seems weird to think that the holidays were only a few weeks ago, it feels more like months!!! I’m plunged into the New Year, and getting very busy now with meetings and writing.
I had an experience a few days ago, which seems smart to share. It’s something that happens in every city and country, and is a product of our sometimes troubled world and economy, I guess. You read about it in the newspapers, often with a very unhappy ending, and it really is smart to be careful!!!
Two men rang the intercom to my apartment in the morning a few days ago. They said they were from the gas company, but wore no uniforms or anything to identify them as from the gas company. They said they had to come in to “photograph around the apartment, to look for my gas meters, because the gas company was planning to change them”. The hour was not unusual: 10 am, but the story seemed odd to me. Not impossible, but maybe a little off. My gas meters had been changed for newer ones a year or so ago. The men did not look particularly official, had no uniform, or cap or badge to make them seem official (although some people are in full uniform and can be frauds too!!). And there was no way I was letting 2 strange men into my apartment, to wander around, taking photographs. In France, we always receive a letter from any maintenance company (gas, phone, alarms, etc.) well in advance, often weeks in advance to warn us of such a visit. I had had no letter to warn me, which was the most suspicious part of their plan. I called the gas company quickly, and miraculously, a person answered, not a machine, and they told me that it was a bogus story, they were not sending anyone out on missions like that, and had sent no one to me. I then went back to the intercom where the men were still waiting, and I told them I was not letting them in. They got nasty then, and threatened me, and they said that if I didn’t let them in immediately, they would cut my gas line then and there (which they couldn’t do, I’m sure), and I told them to do whatever they wanted, they weren’t coming in. They argued about it very aggressively for a while. Without telling them, I called the police. The men must have realized the ruse wasn’t working, and they left, before the police came. The police said it was a common ruse, and unless I had some real proof that the mission was real (an advance warning letter in the mail from the gas company), never let people like that in. It was the first time it had ever happened to me. I had only recently issued warnings about things like that to my family who stay with me, and people who work for me. But only when you are nose to nose with it, does it bring the point home. And I think that the recent violence in France has made people more cautious, but this is a scenario which has always worried me. And now I saw it in action.
I could so easily imagine some much older person, alone, faced with threats of cutting off their gas, letting people like that into their home. And then, only God knows what would happen: a robbery, a theft, a mugging, an assessment for a future robbery, or worse. It can happen to any unsuspecting person, or even in a distracted moment when you let your guard down.
Companies like Federal Express in France don’t have enough regular employees, so they often send out workers they subcontract with, with no Uniform or official indicators, to deliver packages and letters. I never let them in, because there is nothing to prove that they are what they say. But a uniform isn’t a guarantee either. Plenty of robbers or bad people show up in official uniforms, as mailmen, delivery people, and even police, and are frauds. You need to be careful even of delivery people, someone with an armload of flowers for you, you open the door, and then there’s trouble. I was lucky that these two were so transparent.
I remember a few years ago, a serial rapist in New York was wearing a full legitimate police uniform, ringing doorbells, and young women let them in, and then terrible things happened. Another was masquerading as a fireman. If you have not called for help, and are not expecting a package, delivery or serviceman, be VERY, VERY, VERY careful, and better yet, don’t open the door and let them in!!
I’m not suggesting that you become totally paranoid, hide under your bed, and keep your doors locked forever. But we all need to be wise and careful, alert, and suspicious enough to protect ourselves. Don’t just open the door to anyone, try to be as sure as you can that the person at the door is for real, and if you have any doubt at all, don’t open the door, particularly if you’re alone. You’re better off delaying or even losing a legitimate package than getting hurt, robbed, or worse. The police told me that this is a very common occurrence, and whenever you aren’t sure of the people at the door, DON’T let them in.
So please be careful!!! Take good care!!! Be Safe!!!
much love, Danielle