Neighbourhood Watch

The St Margaret’s Estate has a number of Neighbourhood Watch Coordinators who liaise with local police to try to reduce criminal activity.

Although crime rates have historically been low within the St. Margaret’s Estate, they have been creeping up in recent years, with both professional and opportunist criminals operating in the area periodically.

Neighbourhood Watch also issues warnings of scams, whether they are operating door to door (e.g. rogue builders) or on a national level (e.g bank and internet fraud).

For detailed information on crime prevention tips, visit:

www.met.police.uk/crimeprevention

Please see below for a summary of police tips and precautions you can take to significantly reduce the chances of becoming a victim.

CAR CRIME

Check your vehicle is locked and secure every time you leave it.  Thieves often look for easy opportunities to steal from vehicles.  They will usually try the handles until they get lucky and find one left unlocked.

Remove all items from view by taking them with you or putting them in the boot out of sight as thieves target items on display.  Things like clothes or an old bag might not seem like ‘valuables’ but they could tempt a thief.

If you have a garage, use it.  If you don’t, try to park in a well lit space.

If you have builders in, advise them to keep their vans locked as these too have been targeted within the St Margaret’s Estate.

A disproportionate number of vehicles stolen locally are BMWs. An old fashioned crook lock on the steering wheel is advised for newer models.

Top tips from the Metropolitan Police include:

1. Always lock it.  Fuelling up or popping back into your house to get something are perfect examples of how easy it is to turn your back for a moment and forget your vehicle is unsecured.  Get into the habit of locking your vehicle even if you are only going to be away from it for a moment.

2. Close windows and the sun roof to prevent ‘fishing’.  Leaving windows and the sunroof open invites fishing for items through the gap by hand or with, say, a bent coat hanger, which could also be used to unlock a door for them to get in.  Thieves can be ingenious.  Don’t give them the opportunity.

3. Secure your number plates with tamper-resistant screws.  The easiest way to change the identity of a stolen vehicle or avoid speeding tickets and parking tickets is to fit stolen number plates.  Using security screws to attach your vehicle’s number plates makes it harder for thieves to get your number.

4. Fit locking, anti-tamper wheel nuts to secure alloy wheels.  Stolen wheels are valuable, either as parts or for their scrap value. Using locking wheel nuts reduces the risk of your vehicle’s wheels being stolen.

5. Secure anything that’s on the outside of your vehicle.  Anything left on roof-racks, tailgate racks, holiday top boxes or in tool chests are easily stolen when the vehicle is parked.  The use of cable locks, padlocks and self-locking tools chests, which are secured to the vehicle, makes them more secure, but still, do not leave things in them if you can avoid it.

CAR CRIME – Catalytic Convertors

Catalytic convertors have been targeted nationally and locally, due to their high scrap metal value including Rhodium, worth more than gold.  Certain brands (e.g. Honda, Toyota and Lexus), appear to be particularly popular with thieves.  If possible garage your vehicle or park it in a position that makes the catalytic convertor less accessible.  There are various security options that can be fitted.

CAR CRIME – Keyless

  • Keep electronic keys safe – thieves use scanners to read and copy electronic keys and steal vehicles without the actual key.  When not in use keep your electronic key in a security pouch that blocks the signals from keyless entry fobs.
  • Consider fitting a lock to your vehicle on board diagnostic port (OBD) as this will prevent your vehicle from being reprogrammed by a potential thief.  Speak to your vehicle dealer for more information.
  • A steering wheel lock is a good visual deterrent.
  • A tracking device can help recover your vehicle if stolen.

BIKE CRIME

Always lock your bike even if it’s in your shed better still lock it to an immovable item.  Buy the best lock you can afford.  There are lots of styles on the market but the most important factor is its grading; Gold being the ultimate standard followed by silver then bronze.  Lock the frame and both wheels to a purpose built cycle parking stand.

Make the locks and bike hard to manoeuvre. Secure your bike as close to the stand as possible.  Do not leave any slack chain or lock on the ground, this gives a thief a base to work on.

Take parts that are easy to remove with you e.g. saddles and wheels. Alternatively, use locking skewers, which can increase security by securing the bike’s components to the frame permanently, making it difficult for thieves to steal parts such as saddle or wheels.  Lock your bike at recognised secure cycle parking.  It should be well lit and covered by CCTV, overlooked by buildings and with plenty of passers-by.

You can register your bike for free by joining the UK’s national, police approved, bicycle marking & registration scheme.

Web address: https://www.bikeregister.com

  • If  your bike is stolen you can change the status of your bike to ‘stolen’
  • If you are considering buying a second hand bike, you can check for free if the bike has been listed as stolen before purchasing it

Richmond Council, the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police regularly hold free bike marking events where you can have your bike marked and details entered on the Bike Register Database.  Bike marking events will be advertised on OWL and social media.

If your bike is stolen, report it to the Police by phoning 101 or online https://www.met.police.uk/ro/report/ocr/af/how-to-report-a-crime/ Give the full details of your bicycle including make, model, colour and groupset.

MOTORBIKE/SCOOTER THEFT…lock it…chain it…cover it…

It takes seconds for a thief to steal a moped, scooter or motorcycle, specially if they are left either unsecured or with inadequate security.  Reduce your risk of becoming a victim by taking steps to layer your security:

  • LOCK IT:  Use a disc lock to help secure the front brake disc, or a grip lock to secure the brake and throttle controls.  You could also use a D lock on the front wheel to stop it being wheeled away.
  • CHAIN IT:  Thieves often steal a bike by breaking the steering lock and wheeling it away.  Use a chain lock through the back wheel (the front wheel can be removed).  Secure your bike, with the lock taut to an immovable object such as a ground anchor or street furniture.  This will stop thieves from cutting a lock trailing on the ground using an angle grinder.  If this is not possible, thread the chain through your bike frame and back wheel.
  • COVER IT: Thieves often ‘shop’ for particular bike models.  Using a cover instantly makes it less attractive to them.  A cover also provides another time consuming obstacle for the thief.

Unfortunately, security measures cannot guarantee your bike will not be stolen but, by using multiple security measures, you can make it harder and less attractive for thieves.  For security products,  search the ‘Accredited Products’ page on Secured by Design (a police-approved website).

PARKING METER BANK CARD FRAUD

The Council’s parking and community safety teams have received several reports in recently (January 2021) of parking meter bank card fraud in the borough. The latest variation of the scam involves criminals stealing the victim’s bank card by pretending that there is a problem with the parking machine and informing the victim that the machine has swallowed their bank card.

The latest victims have had thousands of pounds stolen from their bank account within minutes of the crimes being committed.  The crimes have taken place in Kew, Twickenham and Teddington, but they could happen anywhere in the borough.

Motorists are reminded that it impossible for a parking meter machine to swallow bank cards as Pay and Display machines are manufactured so that cards can only be inserted part of the way. If your card disappears, you have been victim of fraud and should contact your bank immediately.  If anyone approaches you when you go to pay for parking please be cautious and never insert your card into a parking machine when someone you do not know is present.

The Council has an alternative system for cashless parking called RingGo, which they claim is a quick and easy to use mobile phone service, which lets you pay for your parking with a credit or debit card, rather than using a Pay and Display machine.

DOORSTEP SCAMS

Doorstep scams are almost as old as…well…doorsteps.  They are a constant threat.  Scammers usually have the gift of the gab and will try to smooth talk you with a convincing story or they might be pushy and intimidating, trying to get you to sign a contract or buy something you don’t want. Their main aim is to trick you out of money or gain access to your home to steal valuables.  Either way, the key is not to let them in and report them as soon as possible.  According to Citizens Advice, doorstep scams account for around 5% of all scams.  Scammers often target older people for doorstep scams as they are more likely to be at home during the day and scammers might find it easier to intimidate or confuse them. In fact, 85% of victims of doorstep scams are aged 65 and over, according to National Trading Standards.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM DOORSTEP SCAMS

Never feel obliged to open the door to a stranger – far safer to call out to them from an upper floor window.  If you open the door, always have a security bar/chain in place.

Here are some further tips from WHICH magazine to protect yourself from Scammers:

  • Be on your guard: always be suspicious of anyone turning up at the door uninvited – regardless of their story.
  • Put up a sign: place a sign in the window near your front door saying that uninvited callers are not welcome.
  • Keep your home secure: don’t let any stranger into your home. Keep your doors locked with the chain on. Ask to see callers’ ID cards and call the company to see if they are genuine. To be safe, look up the company number yourself rather than trust the number on their ID card. If you feel uncomfortable or have any doubts, don’t let them in. It’s your home. Tell them you’re not interested or that now is ‘not convenient’ and ask them to come back at a different time (when you can have a friend or relative with you).
  • Set up a utilities password: you can set up a password with your gas and electricity providers so that you can be sure callers (such as meter readers) are genuine – only genuine callers will be aware of your password. Call your utility company to arrange this. To activate the service they might need to put you on their Priority Services Register.  This gives access to extra services if you’re of pensionable age, are registered disabled, have a hearing or visual impairment, or have long-term ill health.
  • Nominate a neighbour: if you have a relative or friend who lives close by, ask if they’d mind being on standby in case you get any suspicious callers on the doorstep.  Before letting a stranger into your house, give your neighbour a call and ask them to pop round.  If you don’t know anyone nearby, contact your local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme or Safer Neighbourhood Team to find out if they can help. A genuine caller will return at a prearranged time when you’re able to have someone else in your home with you.
  • Consider smart security devices: smart doorbells incorporate a camera and can enable you to speak to a caller without opening the door; some can also send a message to a relative notifying them that you have a visitor.
  • Take a photo: if you’re suspicious, ask the caller if you can take their photo on your mobile phone. Then send it to a close friend or relative. If the caller is genuine, they probably won’t mind.
  • Call the police: if a caller is really persistent and refuses to leave, you can call 999. If you are suspicious, but not in immediate danger, call 101 – the police non-emergency number.

Here are some of the more common versions to be wary of:

Doorstep Scam No. 1 – Rogue traders

The scam: a trader will come to your home and say that you need work done. This might be new paving or a new driveway, but a common favourite is to say that you have a hole in your roof or your guttering is coming down – something that you can’t easily check yourself. They’ll say that it’s really urgent and if you don’t have it fixed, your house will fall down, the roof will leak or it will end up costing you lots of money. They’ll put pressure on you to have the work done now.

The reality: it’s highly likely that they’ve made up the problem. They might pretend to fix it or do a shoddy job. They’ll then charge you an extortionate amount for the ‘work’.

Doorstep Scam No. 2 – Hard-luck Stories

The scam: a stranger (who might seem perfectly respectable and friendly) will turn up on your doorstep pretending that, for example, they need to use the phone because their car broke down or their pregnant girlfriend is ill – they need a glass of water – they’ve lost their dog in your garden.

The reality: they’ll say anything to make you feel sorry for them and will take advantage of your good nature to help them. While you fetch the water or go to get the phone, they might pocket your valuables. Or they might work in pairs – while one distracts you looking for the ‘dog’ in the back garden, the other will gain access to your home.

Doorstep Scam No. 3 – Bogus Officials

The scam: an official looking person with a uniform and ID badge, turns up on your doorstep. They might say they are there to read the gas meter or conduct a survey for the local council.

The reality: their ID could be fake. They want to get into your home or trick you into divulging personal information that can be used for ID fraud.

Doorstep Scam No. 4 = “Nottingham knockers”

The scam: usually carried out by young men, hawking household products. They carry fake ID and claim to be recently out of prison or on probation, explaining that this is a legitimate rehabilitation scheme.

The reality: the household goods are supplied by a man (traditionally from Nottingham, hence the name) who employs them. A group of young men are dropped off to work an area, and then collected by the same man later that day. The knockers’ role is to establish where elderly or vulnerable people live, and this information is then sold on to other criminals. If they come to your door, the advice from the police is to phone 101 to report them. However persistent these men are with their hard-luck stories, do not buy from them.

REMOTE ACCESS SCAMS

A Remote Access scam is when criminals contact you out of the blue, pretending to be the representative of a reputable organisation. This may be a telephone or internet provider, sometimes a bank, or other service provider. Once the criminals have your attention, you’ll usually be offered services such as;

Fixing, upgrading or protecting your computer or device, internet service or the websites you use.

Help getting you a refund for an over-payment.

Help stopping a payment from leaving your account.

In order to provide you with their ‘help’ criminals will typically ask you to assist by allowing them access to your computer or mobile device.

To do this, they may ask you to download software to your computer, or download an app to your mobile device, and accept their request for access. After successfully gaining access to your computer or mobile device, criminals may ask you to log onto your Online Banking.

They may have told you a story about why you need to make a payment or they’ll set up the payment themselves if they have access to your Online Banking; to complete their scam they’ll need you to take some action. Usually, they’ll ask you to share codes sent to your phone (OTPs) or authorise activity yourself through a Mobile Banking app.

If you ever get a call like this, hang up immediately and follow the below tips to help protect yourself.

Never share a One Time Passcode (OTP) with another person, not even an employee of your bank.

Never authorise a transaction using the Mobile Banking app that you haven’t requested yourself. Check the details match the transaction you intend to make.

Never download software or let anyone remotely log on to your computer or other devices, either during or after a cold call.

Never enter your Online Banking details after clicking on a link in an email or text message.

PREVENTING RESIDENTIAL BURGLARIES…Become a creature of habit…

Whenever you go out, it is important to leave your home secure. Getting into an ‘exit routine’ can help ensure that you do not forget home security, which could ultimately prevent your home from being burgled.

Here is what the Metropolitan Police recommend before you go out:

  • Close and lock all doors and windows, even if out for a few minutes
  • Double-lock any doors
  • Make sure that any valuables are out of sight
  • Keep handbags away from letterboxes & cat flaps and hide keys including car keys, as thieve hook keys or valuables through even a small opening
  • Never leave car documents or personal ID in open or obvious places such as kitchens or hallways
  • In the evening, shut the curtains and leave lights on
  • If you are out a lot, it is advisable to use a timer device to automatically turn lights and a radio on at night
  • Set your burglar alarm
  • Make sure the side gate is locked
  • Lock your shed or garage.  Even if it contains no valuables, thieves may utilise your gardening implements and tools to break in to your property
  • Secure bikes (see above)

For more information about how to keep your property safe, click here:

www.met.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention/residential-burglary/

VACATION/STAYCATION

If you are heading off for a holiday this summer, make sure you follow these top tips to help keep your home and belongings safe whilst you are away:

  • If you are off on holiday and wish to post anything on social media, make sure your posts are not public and that they are only seen by your friends.  Social media posts are a quick way for burglars to know when your property is empty.
  • Leave lights and a radio on a timer to make the property appear occupied.
  • Get a trusted neighbour to keep an eye on your property or join a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme.
  • Ask neighbours to close curtains and to park on your drive to make your home appear occupied.
  • Remember to cancel newspaper and milk deliveries.
  • If you are expecting deliveries whilst you are away, ask a trusted neighbour or friend to take these in for you so they don’t pile up outside (another indication that a home is unoccupied).

WEB CRIME: E mail phishing

Criminals are experts at impersonation and they are constantly getting better at creating fake emails and texts that look like the real thing. 

A common type of email fraud is where scammers will send bogus emails pretending to be from a respectable organisation, such as the Inland Revenue or BBC.  This is to trick you into clicking through to a fake website where you will enter your personal details.  They may state that you are entitled to a refund for an over-payment or warn that your licence is about to expire.  They will ask you to respond by entering your bank details on a fake website.  Although the emails may use copies of genuine logos and have other features that make them look authentic, NEVER trust them.

Here is some simple advice on dealing with phishing scams:

  • Your bank, or any other official organisation, will NEVER ask you to share personal information over email or text.  If you need to check that it is a genuine message, call  them directly.  Don’t use the contact details in the email, but visit the official website instead.
  • If you have received an email which you’re not quite sure about, forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS): report@phishing.gov.uk.
  • Received a text message you’re not sure about?  Maybe it’s asking you to “verify” personal or financial details, such as a banking password? Report suspicious text messages by forwarding them to 7726.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • If  you are worried, check your accounts through their own app or via a site you trust, NOT by using links in an email.
  • Check emails you receive are true before you do ANYTHING.
  • Enable two factor authentication to all your accounts so that it is REALLY annoying for the scammers to gain access.
  • Have super strong passwords for all your accounts.
  • If you have lost money or provided personal information as a result of a phishing email, notify your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud: www.actionfraud.police.uk
  • For more tips: www.actionfraud.police.uk/cybercrime

PHONE SCAMS

Be wary of unexpected phone calls from financial institutions.  These cold-call phone scams typically involve fraudsters deceiving people into believing they are speaking to a police officer, a member of bank staff or a representative of another trusted company or agency such as a government department.  Usually, the fraudster will convince an individual that they have been a victim of fraud and will ask for personal and financial information in order to gain access to their account.

Never disclose the following details over the phone:

  • four-digit card Pin to anyone, including the bank or police
  • full password or online banking codes

Fraudsters are known to encourage people to hang up and call their bank to verify the legitimacy of the call.  However, a phone line can be kept open, so the fraudsters remain on the line and play a dialing tone to trick the individual into thinking they’re calling their bank.  In fact, the fraudsters are still connected and the individual is not speaking to their bank but is still connected to the scammers. 

 REPORTING TO THE POLICE

Communities are key to helping the police understand and know what is occurring locally. They need to hear from anyone who has information about crime in order to keep us safe.

To report information to police, click here:

www.met.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/soh/something-youve-seen-or-heard/

To give information anonymously, contact the charity Crimestoppers by either calling 0800 555 111 OR completing their online form:

crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously

In an emergency, always dial 999.

For other inquiries dial 101 or contact our local Safer Neighbourhood Team.