PROVO — A 23-year-old woman woke up Wednesday morning at 3 a.m. startled to see a college-age man in her room.

But what startled her more was the brazen lie that he was the cousin of her roommate.

"He didn't look scary to me," said Holly. The Deseret Morning News is not using her last name in order to protect her privacy and prevent retaliation. "I wasn't initially scared. I think I asked him who he was and what he was doing here."

She said the man told her his name was Nick; then she told him to wait in the living room of her University Avenue condo while she talked with her roommate.

Holly's roommate said she didn't know a Nick, and the girls called 911. By the time Holly came to the living room, the man had left.

"Every year with students ... we've seen an increase in people coming in, checking doors, looking for somebody and dropping a name if they're caught," said Provo Police Lt. Todd Grossgebauer.

"They're coming in, stealing laptop computers, items of value left on the counter. Generally they're not there to accost the females — they're (committing) more crimes of opportunity."

Holly doesn't know the motives of the man who entered her room, and she's still not sure how she woke up — nothing touched her and the man, whom she described as clean-shaven, about 6 foot and medium build, wasn't making any noise.

"I knew at the time that it was weird, and I felt I'd been violated," Holly said. "As I started talking to people I realize how bad it could have been and how lucky I was that I even woke up."

Nearly 20,000 Brigham Young University students live in off-campus housing, according to BYU, and potential burglars know it.

They also know that many apartments are filled with students who might not question a "cousin" or "friend" who stops by looking for someone.

Often, a student will come home to their unlocked apartment to find a stranger inside, who will quickly say they're looking for a friend and drop a common name. When told that person doesn't live there, they'll take off, and the student may, unfortunately, never think about the encounter again.

"What (students) may not realize is that person has entered with the intent to commit thefts if not confronted," Grossgebauer said, urging students to call police.

Even if the person is legitimate in his or her search for "Tim" or "Jessica," it's still better to be safe than sorry, Grossgebauer said.

"We always ask students to not fall into thinking that they're completely safe just because they're living in Provo," said Joe Hadfield, spokesman for BYU. "They should always be cautious and make wise decisions."

Most of those wise decisions mean using common sense, said Provo Police Capt. Cliff Argyle.

Lock apartment doors and windows, keep valuables out of sight whether in a home or car, be aware of the surroundings, and communicate with roommates about concerns in the apartment.

"With all the reports that I'm reading, there hasn't been any forced entry that we can find," Argyle said. "With so many roommates, sometimes they leave the door unlocked for ease of roommates to come and go and get in the habit of not locking it. These are crimes of opportunity. These people are just walking in. If you take that opportunity away, they'll go somewhere else."

Holly said in their apartment, the girls are vigilant about locking the front door, but somehow they must have forgotten about the rarely used sliding glass door.

But now they have a dowel for the track of the sliding glass door and a new chain and bolt lock for the front door.

"We've done everything that we can to make sure it doesn't happen again," Holly said. "Now it's just time to get over it and get on with life. You can't be scared all the time, that doesn't help."

E-mail: [email protected]