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Solicitors / Strangers At Your Door

When someone knocks at your door, acknowledge you are home. Talk through the door without opening it. If you don't answer, and it happens to be a criminal type, they may attempt to break into your home.

You are not obligated to open the door to anyone. Identification should always be verified before opening the door. A wide angle door viewer is an absolute must if visibility of callers is not possible. Service representatives should have appointments and not just "show up" at your door.

Do not rely on a door chain for security. Partially opening a door equipped with a door chain is a practice that must be discourage. The door is not secured. A door chain cannot withstand physical force.

  1. First, talk to the person through the door. You don't know the person, so don't open the door!
  2. Ask what they need. If it is a car problem, offer to call their road service for them. If it is an accident, call 9-1-1 for them. The idea is to keep them outside and you make the call for them. The police are very helpful. There is a chance that it is legitimate and a chance that they may be scamming you. So protect yourself first.
  3. Ask them to stand by while you place the call. If the person(s) stays, it is a good chance that they are legitimate, however, if they leave quickly, it is probably a con.

Suggestion: Take a good look at their face, clothing, any distinguishing features, direction of travel, another person, a vehicle, etc. This may be useful if you call the police for help.

If the person leaves quickly, it is considered very suspicious and it would be best to call the police department immediately to report it. Call 9-1-1 or 650-329-2413.


If it is a solicitor, they must have a permit displaying the City of Palo Alto seal issued by our police department in their possession. There are two types:

  • For profit: solicitor selling a product or service. They must comply with the 9am-6pm rule and any signs that are posted that deny their solicitation (NO SOLICITORS signs);
  • Nonprofit organization: they can go door-to-door for contributions at any time. If you have a NO SOLICITORS sign and they won't leave, call the police. This is trespassing.

Look at the permit through your window or wide angle door viewer. Make sure the dates are current. Possession of a permit does not mean that we endorse them. The police department does not solicit for funds or support.

When it comes to making the call to the police department, when in doubt, just call. It is better to pass the information on. In the big picture, it may be the very piece of information we need to stop an individual and it may possibly result in an arrest.

For additional information, please contact the Palo Alto Police at:

Phone: 650-329-2413
Fax: 650-329-2565
Email: pd@city.palo-alto.ca.us

( Click to see a sample Solicitor Permit )

Last Updated December 19, 2012