Crime prevention is everyone’s responsibility, not just a job for law enforcement. Seniors can learn how to protect themselves from crime by following these simple, common-sense suggestions. Share these tips with your neighbors and friends too and make it tough for criminals to work in your neighborhood.
- Always keep your doors and windows locked. Install dead-bolt locks on all doors.
- Keep your home well lit at night, inside and out, and keep your curtains closed at night.
- Install a peephole in your front door so you can see callers without opening the door.
- Ask for proper identification from delivery men or strangers.
- Don’t be afraid of asking, if they are legitimate they won't mind.
- Never give your credit card, phone card, social security, or bank account number to anyone over the phone unless you've placed the call.
- If a stranger asks to use your telephone, offer to place the call for him/her yourself. Never let a stranger into your home.
- Do not leave notes on your door when you are gone, and do not hide your keys under the mat or in other conspicuous places.
- Never give out information over the phone indicating you are alone or that you won’t be home at a certain time.
- When you are gone for more than a day, make sure your home looks and sounds occupied —use automatic timers to turn on lights and a radio or television. Cancel your mail and newspaper deliveries.
If you are a victim at home...
If you arrive at home and suspect a stranger may be inside, DON’T GO IN. Leave quietly and call 911 to report the crime.If you are attacked on the street, make as much noise as possible by calling for help or blowing a whistle. Do not pursue your attacker. Call 911 and report the crime as soon as possible.If you have been swindled or conned, report the crime to your local police or district attorney’s office. Con artists count on their victim’s reluctance to admit they’ve been duped, but if you delay, you help them get away. Remember, if you never report the crime, they are free to cheat others again and again and you have no chance of ever getting your money back.
While you’re out...
Carry your purse very close to you — don’t dangle it from your arm. Also, never leave your purse in a shopping cart. Don’t carry more cash than is necessary. Many grocery stores now accept checks and automatic teller cards instead of cash. Avoid walking alone at night. Try to have a friend accompany you in high risk areas, even during the daytime. Do not carry weapons, they may be used against you. Have your paychecks or government checks sent directly to your bank account. Many banks have senior citizens discounts. Never withdraw money from your bank accounts for anyone except YOURSELF. Be wary of con artists and get-rich schemes that probably are too-good-to-be-true.
In your car...
Keep your gas tank full and your engine properly maintained to avoid breakdowns. Always lock your car doors, even when you’re inside and keep your windows rolled up. Driving with the windows closed also improves gas mileage. Lock packages and other valuables in the trunk. Do not leave them on the back seat or on the floor of the car where potential thieves can see them. When you return to your car, always check the front and back seat before you get in. Never pick up hitchhikers.If your car breaks down, pull over to the right as far as possible, raise the hood, and wait inside the car for help. Do not get out of the car or roll down the window until the police arrive.
What you can do to help:
Work to change conditions that hurt your neighborhood: Volunteer as a citizen patroller, tutor for children, office aide in the police or fire department, mentor for teens, or escort individuals with disabilities.Contact your local American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) for more information on how to get involved in other community programs.
Identity theft can strike YOU even if you've been very careful about keeping your personal information to yourself. If you think that your personal information has been hijacked take immediate action. Contact Police and all others that need to be contacted. Keep a record of all conversations and correspondence. All cases and situations of identity theft are different. However, there are three basic actions that you can take in almost every case.
Contact the fraud department of each of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them what has happened and request that a "Fraud Alert" be placed in your file, as well as a victim (your) statement asking creditors to call you before opening any new accounts or changing any information to your existing accounts. At the same time order a copy of your credit report. Also, check that section of your credit report that lists "inquiries." If there are any new inquiries that are not by your doing, request that these inquires be removed from your credit report. In a few months reorder another copy of your credit report to verify your corrections and changes and to make sure that no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
Contact any creditors about any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Credit card companies, phone companies, utilities, banks and lenders should all be contacted. Notify these companies in writing and follow all consumer protection guidelines. Immediately close accounts that have been tampered with and open new accounts with new personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords. Don't use any easily available information such as, your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number, your phone number or a series of consecutive numbers.
File a report with your local Police Department and get a copy of the report in case the bank, credit card company or others need proof of the crime.
Other helpful information:
Stolen Mail: If an identity thief has stolen your mail to get new credit cards, bank or credit card statements, prescreened credit offers or tax information, or if a thief has falsified change of address forms, that's a crime. Report this to the Police Department and contact your local Post Office and ask to speak to the Postal Inspector.
Change of address on credit card accounts: If the thief has changed the address on your credit card accounts, close the account right away. And once again ask them to contact you if there is any new activity or inquiries to your new account.
Bank Accounts: If you believe or fear that someone has tampered with your bank account, checking account, or ATM card, close those accounts immediately. In addition, if your checks have been stolen or misused, stop payment right away. Also contact the major check verification companies to request that they notify retailers using their databases not to accept these checks.
The three major check verification companies are:
International Check Services: 1-800-631-9656
If your ATM card has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, CANCEL IT as soon as possible and get a new PIN number.
Investments: If you believe someone has information about your investments, immediately report it to your broker or account manager.
Phone Services: If a thief has established a new phone service in your name, or is making unauthorized calls billed to you, is using your cell phone number, or your calling card and PIN, contact your service providers right a way and cancel your accounts. To get fraudulent phone charges removed from your bill contact your state Public Service Commission, for in state calls, and call the FCC for long distance and cell calls.
Employment: If someone is using your social security number to apply for a job or to work, that is a crime. Report it to the Social Security Administration's Fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271. Also call SSA, 1-800-772-1213, to verify the accuracy of the earnings reported on your SSN and request a copy of your social security statement. Follow up all calls in writing.
If someone has used your SSN to obtain a drivers license or non-drivers ID, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Bankruptcy: If someone has filed for bankruptcy using your information, write to the U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. Your letter should describe the situation in detail and you should provide proof of your identity. You may also want to file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI in the City where the bankruptcy was filed.
Arrests/Records: If someone using your identity is arrested and uses your name, you may need to hire an Attorney to help you resolve the problem.
Should I apply for a new Social Security Number? Contact the SSA and they, in some cases, will assign you a new SSN. However, the new SSN may not solve your identity theft problems and could actually create new problems. Seek guidance in this matter.