Should You Answer the Door When a Stranger Knocks?

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Should You Answer the Door When a Stranger Knocks

This post is by Bernie Carr,

During the summertime or holidays you may notice an increase in people coming up to your door:  leaving flyers, selling something or just being neighborly.  But you never know what their intentions are. Many people wonder, in this day and age, whether you should answer the door when a stranger knocks.

What do the police say?

The local constables in our area have been warning people to be more vigilant due to a rising number of burglaries.  One of the more controversial questions is whether you should answer the door when a stranger knocks or pretend you’re not home.

So, should you answer the door when a stranger knocks?

Our local law enforcement does recommend that you should answer the door from behind the locked door.  The reason for this is, many thieves knock on the door to find out if someone is at home.  If someone answers, they avoid the house because they are looking for an easy target.  But if you pretend you are not home, they will assume the house is empty and may try to sneak in or even kick the door open. If they find you, you will be in danger.

At the same time, the person knocking may not have ill intentions at all, and there would be no reason to fear them.  Answering the door without opening it at first will at least allow you to find out what they want.

What I encountered when I went door to door for charity

I myself have accompanied my kids when going door to door selling tickets for a charity fundraiser.  Many neighbors seem to get freaked out when you ring the doorbell.   Standing outside, I can usually tell if someone is at home.   You can tell if it’s kids but lots of adults just stand there as well.  It’s just a sad fact of life while living in the big city.  Many people may live next to each other for years and never get to know each other.  I didn’t take it personally if they don’t answer the door.  But the few who did answer their doors either said they weren’t interested or gladly bought tickets.

Recently, a couple of senior homeowners were robbed when a woman and a child knocked on their door.  They let their guard down talking to the woman while an accomplice either snuck in through a back door or forced their way into rob them.

I can definitely see both sides of the issue.  Here’s what I think:

  • Check who is at the door by looking out the window if you can.  Some doors have peepholes but many do not.
  • Answer the door and ask what they want.  On one hand, you may be worried about safety but on the other hand, the person knocking may just be a neighbor needing to talk to you about something.
  • If you get a bad or nagging feeling, don’t open the door.  Trust your gut.
  • Keep your door locked at all times.
  • Tell children and young teens never to open the door when someone knocks or rings the doorbell.  If they notice that someone is at the door, they need to let an adult know.  A couple of home invasions in the city resulted when teens opened the door without checking first.
  • Consider a doorbell security camera. You can see who is at the door via an app on your phone, whether you are home or not.
  • In case of a break-in while you are at home, have a weapon nearby and know how to use it.
  • Or, at the very least, always have your cell phone handy in case you are in danger and have to call 9-1-1.

In answer to the original question about whether you should answer the door, yes, you should.  Find out what they want, BUT do it behind a locked door.  Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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About the author

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.






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  1. There are excellent reasons for NOT opening the door to someone whom you do not know, are acquainted with, or, are unsure of. Commons sense should always be used.
    There are always coulda-shoulda-woulda scenarios that can be tossed around like flatulence at any frat party. First rule, do not open your door. There is no law requiring you to open your door, to anyone who is not a law enforcement officer. Get a peephole installed. Use one of the excellent door jambs that keep someone from forcing entry into your occupied space.
    If you cannot find one online, use a simple 2X4 angled piece of wood, and slide it under the door, on your side of the door. It will make it darn near impossible to kick open your door. For fire safety drill a hole at the long rear of the piece of 2X4 and attach it via strong para-cord or wire to your door knob for removal during a fire/smoke emergency.
    There is no “law of etiquette” that says you HAVE to open your door to solicitors, and others whom you do not know So why place yourself in a much easier opportunity to become a crime statistic? Embarrassment never has been a good reason/excuse/justification for placing your self in danger.

    1. Hi TPSnodgrass, I agree, it’s better to be safe that sorry, and being embarrassed should not be a reason to put one’s self in a bad situation. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Good stuff as always. I’ll say that if you have one of those chain locks on your door, leave it on and crack the door a bit; it’s not the best option because it can make you look paranoid, but it’s there.

    1. Hi Pierce, Yes, a chain door lock would be good to open just enough to see out. I’ve lived in units that have one and others that don’t. It wouldn’t hurt checking with the property manager or lease to see if it allows the addition of one. Thanks for the comment.

  3. When going to look out your peephole, brace your upper arm and side of your body up against the door near the doorknob, just in case the person is unfriendly and decides to try and bash the door in.

  4. Have a locked screen door between you and the strangers. That way if it seems reasonably safe you can open the door to show you are home and find out what they want, but there is a barrier between you and them. Not foolproof of course, but even that layer helps. Gives you at least a bit of time to close the big door and lock it. But of course it has to be a quality screen door, nothing too flimsy.

    The hard part is training the rest of your family to keep the screen door locked. I have been trying to train mine for the longest time but they think I’m really paranoid to keep the screen door locked. Still, I insist. The kids usually lock it, my husband mostly does, but my in-laws never do. They don’t even keep the door locked. Ugh.

    1. Hi, you are right, it is difficult to get everyone to cooperate with locking up. Some people have a false sense of security. Thanks for the comment!

  5. I am almost 60 years old, and was raised to lock-the-door, lock-the-door, lock-the- door! Have never ceased to be alarmed when I hear of some acquaintance, work- mate, friend that doesn’t lock their doors in a conscience and consistent manner. My children are quite familiar with the art of locking the door, jiggling the knob, and giving it a push, before leaving.

    Although, I will say that some movies have made me paranoid about answering from behind the peephole. So I check quickly and quietly, then step back and to the side, before saying, Ye-e-ss?

    I’ve come to realize that my mother was a woman ahead of her time. I was an only child and she had to drill it into my head (and my father’s. ha.) that we didn’t owe any body an answer to questions that were really none of their business, that we didn’t have to pick up the phone when it rang, and this was before voice mail (screening). If she wasn’t expecting a phone call from someone specific she didn’t care about any random callers. If I was home alone for a couple hours I was only allowed to answer the phone if it rang twice, silence, and then rang again. That was her code for family.

    She was great for finding alternative uses for things. One of the longest running habits that I remember her doing was using one or two long bread knives shoved in the moulding around the door frame, at the knob area, to secure the home at night.

    1. Hi Diane, Your Mom was one smart woman! And she imparted her wisdom to you. I like your 2 bread knifes in the moulding tip. Thanks for the comment!

  6. As former law enforcement I can tell you that situational awareness has never been more important whether on the street or at home. Many get too comfortable around their own home and think they are protected by some mystical power. They are so used to being there that they think nobody would harm them there. Wrong! Most thugs knock on the front door before they break in. They do this to make sure the house is empty. If you come to the door they can move on and find another empty house. The problem comes in once the door is opened. You are now banking on them being scared and wanting to leave. What if they decide to shove their way in? Don’t take the chance! Drug addicts don’t have a conscience when they need a fix.

    1. Hi Anthony, Good points. Sadly, many people lack situational awareness-I see a lot of people buried in their phones while walking or even driving they are not paying attention. Thanks for the comment!

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