10 Precautions to Take to Avoid Getting Robbed by the Domestic Help

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan

So we got robbed recently. I guess 'recently' is the wrong word since we were being robbed at home for over 6 months without realizing it.

To put it in a nutshell, we lost a lot. Like 'millions' lot.

I could sit and whine about the pathetic state of the world, the country et al but I figured I would be doing us all a favour with a little less whining and a lot more introspection.

So here are my 10 precautions to take to avoid getting robbed by the domestic help... from a family who was robbed by the domestic help!

Above all else, of course, please get a trusted alarm system like Verisure set in your house. This can make a lot of difference and even help foil an attempted robbery in progress.

10 Precautions to take to avoid getting robbed  by the domestic help

1. Get an authentic ID proof of the domestic help

One of the major issues the modern family encounters is non-availability of domestic help that meets the time schedule and needs of the house. Hence, we tend to be eager to get them to stay if anyone turns up at all.

But what about safety? When you allow this person into your house and give them access you don't give others on the street, what have you done to authenticate they are who they claim to be? If they do steal and leave, what can you offer the police as identification besides their telephone number?

Demand ID proof. Not a photostat of an Aadhaar or other proofs but the actual card which you can go photostat.

You fear they will refuse to join? Well, do you think that is worth risking harm to your family?
We did not have any of these but when it came down to it, we did give the police CCTV footage of the person coming home every day. You need to have a clear picture of your domestic help.

02. Do a proper background check
Find out from them where they have worked earlier. Get that phone number (ideally from them) and make the call. Know the past of the person who will be inside your house when you are away.

Also, find out about the background of their spouse or direct family members ( history of past arrests, criminal links or gang relations.)

03. Interview the person face to face
Please understand, a recommendation from a friend is of no value if the maid ends up stealing from you or harming your family. You need to do this face to face and assess whether the person is a good fit for your house or if warning bells are ringing in your head.

04. Identify the people she interacts with outside work
This was something the police explained to us. In many ways, we were lucky that she chose to rob us only instead of helping others gain access to the house who may have killed my family. If the help stays at home all day, provide a room that does not allow them to open the main door late at night unsupervised.

We hear so many stories in the news... we just do not imagine we will ever be the news someday.

05. Buy limited amount of groceries
Buying in bulk can make it more difficult to keep track of what goes missing from the house.

06. Do not leave the help unsupervised in a room containing valuables
This is where my family erred the most. We ended up in a scenario where I would be at work in the hospital, my father would be out, my mother would be in the kitchen at the far end of the house and the maid - in the guise of cleaning - had full access to every nook and corner.

To give you a clear picture of how easy we made it for her, she could:

  • enter the master bedroom situated next to the living room, 
  • find the keys to the locker (placed in a different position in the same room), 
  • open the (surely not silent) locker, 
  • select jewellery to steal, 
  • close the (not silent) locker, 
  • exit the bedroom with the jewellery and 
  • stash it in her clothing till the end of the day when she coolly exited the house.

Opt for a secure locker option at home - electronic or one where the combination cannot be easily deciphered.

07. Do not let them know where the valuables are
In our case, we were undone because shortly after her arrival, there was a big wedding in the neighbourhood and my mother brought a lot of gold from the bank locker which the maid saw. Time passed by and one or the other delay occurred in returning the gold back to the bank until one fine day, the locker in the room was opened and the gold was nearly entirely gone. 

08. Make an inventory of all your valuables
No, you haven't done it. Neither had we. And it was tough thus to explain to the police what all was lost since we had no images or receipts.

Take pictures of every item of jewellery/ valuables you own alongside a bill and a clear written description and make it into a single word document that can be accessed by all the members in your family during an emergency.

Please take my advice seriously.

There was a point where the woman tried to escape by confessing (promising on her child's name) to the police that she only sold (x) amount of gold to one jeweller alone. A random piece of serendipity helped us find the second jeweller 24 hours later and when she knew the police was taking her to that store, she confessed to stealing and selling more. In the end, the amount identified stands at (6x). But without that piece of luck, we would have been stuck with the initial amount (x) she tried to get away with.

As the one sitting in a police station unable to explain to the officers what all was stolen, I know where we went wrong. Learn from my mistake.

09. Do not become dependent on your domestic help
I pondered about how much to reveal here. You see, this is where I have major issues with my parents. Their kindness (naivety? stupidity?) has been the doom of the family in many ways but even with our long history as the baseline, what occurred with this maid servant borders on the ridiculous.

A good sociopath can easily weasel their way into the hearts of your family members while you are away, being the ear of comfort they want and need. In our case, the maid servant preyed on the insecurities and superstitions of the elders in our house, finally reaching a stage where she had full freedom to decide the course of events that took place there including when family members had to fly down from abroad to meet people she convinced them had magical abilities.

I talked about gaslighting earlier. That usually applies to relationships and maybe Godmen/ politicians. But this woman successfully convinced my family that she was a ghost buster and a 'black magic voodoo item' detector. And even when my family was 100% sure she was the robber, they were also 100% sure she was still a ghost buster and a saviour for them.

I know you deserve a better explanation for the ghost buster bits but for now, this is all I have to offer here.

10. Keep the relationship professional
In the short span of six months, 'we' had already verbally committed to financially helping the maid get land for her own house (because she had done SO MUCH for us, remember?).

Her husband underwent a brain surgery after a road traffic accident and we paid for the whole operation, without asking for any form of repayment. Standing in front of the police station the day after she was arrested, he even apologized to us for that, telling us he was aware of how we paid for him to be alive.

As for the woman herself? Surrounded by police and with us in the police station, she coolly said we did not pay for anything so she decided to steal. Can you imagine what that feels like to hear after doing all this to save her husband's life?

Pay the amount you have agreed upon and nothing more. Do not allow their tragic backstories to influence you to part with your own hard earned money.

When we realized we were robbed, we knew it was her since there was simply no one else with access to the room. But here is the thing - for awhile, the family actually was not considering taking legal action against the maid!

The thoughts in their minds ranged from 'what will people think once they find out?' to 'we will buy the antique gold back from her since it has sentimental value' to yes, 'calling astrologers and diviners to use their powers to find the gold.'

In the end, it took one phone call from my father to her wherein she promises to repay the amount month by month, threatening to commit suicide if we went to the police leaving her children without a mother, a curse my family would have to live with forever.

Oh, right... I forgot. A phone call ON LOUDSPEAKER WITH ME RECORDING the entire conversation.

Half an hour later, I was in the police station with my phone and a pair of headphones and I had made three officers listen to her confession. To their credit, the city police had jumped into action even before I had finished writing down my complaint. She was located and brought in within 6 hours. Her own pleas and threats on the phone broke down her initial claims of innocence.

Section 381 IPC

She was charged with Section 381 of the Indian Penal Code - Theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of Master.

We lost a lot. Not just financially, either. It sucks when you have collected ornaments for 4 decades and someone steals it and melts it away for a quick buck. More so, when you have been brainwashed into believing that person is like a saviour in your house.

There is not much we can do about it. But as the saying goes, if you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.

This is me being that warning to you all -  love with your heart but use your head when it comes to the random people you allow into your house.

10 Precautions to take to avoid getting robbed  by the domestic help


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Let me know what you think.

  1. Oh my God! What a nightmare!
    These are good points - did you mention taking a picture of the help? Also, electronic lockers are a good investment provided they can be permanently fixed in your cupboard.

  2. This is such terrible news! It’s true, you can hardly trust anyone these days.
    I guess subconsciously, we are all aware of these precautions we need to take. But like you said, we just don’t imagine we can be the ones that are duped.
    Your post is such a reality check!

  3. In this era of nuclear family ,our elderly parents and children are becoming home alone.This makes people rely on babysitters and servants.As homosapiens are becoming less reliable in this world,relationships are worsening with increasing number of cases of theft,baby battering and elderly abuse in the hands of domestic servants on one side and domestic violence faced by maid servants in the hands of household members on the other side..I guess very soon everybody will have to start switching to robot housemaids in every home.

  4. So sorry to hear this terrible thing, Roshan. In India everyone is heavily dependent on domestic help giving them more power and authority than earlier. I don’t have any tips or tricks to offer. We just have to be careful and more careful, especially when elderly parents and younger children are there.
    I liked this article with valuable pointers from your experience. Thanks for that.

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  6. Oh, this is terrible. YOu are right, we get so dependant on the maids because they take care of all the menial jobs or physical chores that we are unable to do. Some people can take advantage of the fact like how your maid did. But you did the right thing. Will take your valuable pointers and hope we can be safe if we follow them diligently.

  7. This is scary to say the least. But you did take good and intelligent action. Thank you for sharing the pointers. Yes, we end up placing all our trust on oh helps without realising the repercussions. Probably because in our head we know we need them more than they need us.
    I'm grappling home chores without a help for a while now. Had to fire a few errant ones, one after the other.
    Stealing small things here and there, it seems has become the norm. And I see so many of us just make peace with it.

    Your pointers are very valuable and yes, not a good idea to stack unlimited grocery which I am mostly guilty of.
    Take care Roshan. I can imagine the trauma you all would have faced as a family. Hope things resolve soonest and you find an honest helping hand.

  8. Oh my God! This must have been a terrible experience, Roshan! I've had a small incident at home involving my maid who has been with us for over a year now! I completely agree that we trust them far too much and grant them access into our homes in a very naive sort of way, which leads to such things. I never ever leave them alone in the house, even if my work is left unfinished and I have to go out. You just cannot trust outsiders like that. Made a note of the useful pointers!

  9. Oh God! This is so scary and I can understand the empathy for the servant. You have given some very good tips to document our stuff. Will follow through.

  10. Great points to keep in mind. In India we are so used to the fact of domestic help that at some time we feel we cannot do without them. Once your domestic staff comes to know that you cannot do without them they take full adnavtage of this fact and start playing tricks and games. Games like talikng advance for an emrgency, child's education or other sickness ... which you should be sure that yiu will never get back. Also, we start trusting them and consider them as a family member. Again, they take advantage of the same. Thanks for the tips ... much needed in today's times.

  11. Ohh my god... Your family went through so much... To think that she took advantage of your parent's goodness makes me really sad. Incidents like these make even nice people not trust anyone anymore. I am glad you were able to catch her. Take care.

  12. What a horrible thing to have happened. So sorry that you and your family had to go through this. Good that you reported and she was charged for the crime. I appreciate this post. Very important to be careful before being sorry!

  13. Sad to hear about the theft in your house. It's very important to do a background check, monitor the domestic help and not let them entry in every nook or corner of the house, be on our guards not let them give us impression they mean the world to us. Your family did so much for her! Once a friend lost 75K inside the house but unfortunately the cops didn't really act!

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  15. Thanks a lot for sharing the information.

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