Hoffman recommends people living alone – especially women and the elderly – have a friend with them when a worker is expected. She also advises that if anyone sees something happening that they think could be criminal, or just makes them feel unsafe, they should call the police and tell their neighbors.
“No one can go to bat for you except yourself,” she said.
Strangers in your house: How to stay safe
She recommends looking carefully at the service worker’s identification on arrival and checking for a uniform, badge and company vehicle. People also should not let workers in without an appointment, she said.
“We, as women, we want to believe so badly that there is no one capable or no one ever wanting to hurt us,” Hoffman said. “We learn all the different things we should or shouldn’t do based on what happened to someone else.”
Hoffman speaks of her own experience with an ex-boyfriend who she said stalked her for a year and a half in Arizona. He threatened to kill her and himself, she said, which prompted Hoffman to move to Albuquerque.
“My heightened sense of awareness was brought on by someone else,” she said. “Once you’ve been through something like that, or survived a type of encounter or traumatic event, you don’t ever want to be put in that position again … where you feel you can’t handle yourself.”
Hoffman said service companies also can do more. When Hoffman had appliances delivered, she said, she was provided with the installer’s name, photo and time they would be at the appointment.
In Betty Jo McClain Thomas’ case, Hoffman speculated that seeing the company vehicle and having dealt with Holden the day before may have led Thomas to have her guard down. Hoffman also believes the company bears some responsibility in that case, especially since Holden had access to a company vehicle during his off hours.
“Except for military and police, who would need a take-home car?” she asked.