Crime prevention is everyone’s responsibility. Seniors can learn how to protect themselves from crime by following these simple, common-sense, suggestions. Share these tips with your neighbors and friends, and make it tough for criminals to work in your neighborhood.
- Always keep 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.
- 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 along or that you won’t be home at a certain times.
- 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.
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 you 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.
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. 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.
- If you see something suspicious, CALL THE POLICE. Your observations can prevent or stop a crime before it occurs.
Protecting Yourself From Telemarketing Fraud.
It can be hard to resist. A phone call from a charity seeking desperately needed funds for flood victims, endangered species, or the homeless. A postcard claiming you’ve won an amazing sweepstakes prize if you’ll just call and send an “administrative fee.” Or an investment offer giving you an “exclusive” chance to earn potentially enormous profits.
But resist you must. These are just a few examples of the kinds of fraudulent schemes Americans run across every day. Experts estimate that consumers lose more than $100 billion annually to a broad assortment of frauds, cons, and scams. Fraudulent telemarketing and direct mail appeals account for $40 billion of this total.
Alarmingly, the elderly are a major target for con artists, especially phony fundraisers and bogus investment and insurance schemes. Whether they are widowed and lonely, eager to help others, or merely intrigued by a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, increasing numbers Americans are falling for sophisticated and slick appeals that can wind up costing them thousands of dollars, not to mention untold anguish and stress.
Taking your money is the number-one goal of the nation’s scamming scoundrels. Many concoct their cons just to get a credit card number so they can go on a spending spree financed by YOU. Others will bill you incredible sums for merely calling them to find out more. And still more want a check or cash as soon as possible – by overnight delivery, by wire or even by courier – so they have their money before you have them figured out.
What consumer-soaking schemes are all the rage these days? Among the major scams are postcard sweepstakes offers. In a recent poll, 30 percent of Americans said they had responded to such mailings, sometimes sending hundreds of dollars to “register” for a seemingly fabulous prize or trip.
False charities are another popular consumer con. Telephone troublemakers claiming to represent everyone from police officers to the disabled take advantage of Americans’ generosity to the tune of billions of dollars each year. Adding to the problem is an array of fraudulent appeals – in newspaper ads, on TV and by mail – about business and investment opportunities, vacation homes, and even “miracle cures” for everything from baldness to cancer.
WHAT CAN YOU DO….
In the face of this onslaught of fraud, the best course for consumers is to beware. Here are some pointers so you won’t be conned by the pros.
- If a caller asks for your credit card, bank account or Social Security number to verify a free vacation, a prize, or a gift, say “No” and hang up.
- If you’re calling a 900 number in response to an advertisement or something you received in the mail, make sure you know all the charges up front.
- Before you agree to support a charity that calls seeking money, ask for written information about its finances and programs.
If you feel you’ve been conned, call the police or the Better Business Bureau. Remember, consumer fraud is a crime. And last but not least, remember that an offer that sounds too good to be true, probably is.
If you become a victim of Identity Theft, it is important to act immediately to stop the thief’s further use of your identity. Unfortunately, at this time victims themselves are burdened with resolving the problem. It is important to act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage. In dealing with authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, dates, names, and telephone numbers. Note the time spent and any expenses incurred. Confirm conversations in writing. Provide your police report number to expedite reporting the crime.
Send correspondence by certified mail (return receipt requested). Keep copies of all letters and documents. Sometimes victims of Identity Theft are wrongfully accused of crimes committed by an imposter. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken by an imposter, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of Identity Theft. If you are wrongfully prosecuted of criminal charges, contact the state Department of Justice and the FBI. Ask how to clear your name.
We suggest you also do the following:
- Report the crime to your local police. Provide as much information as you can. Obtain a police report number and name of an officer who investigated your report and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case. Credit card companies, banks, and insurance companies may require you to show the report in order to verify the crime. Copies of police reports can be obtained by contacting the local police department.
- Immediately contact all creditors with whom your name has been used fraudulently. Obtain replacement cards with new account numbers for your own accounts that have been used fraudulently. Ask that old accounts be processed as “account closed at consumer’s request.” (This is better than “card lost or stolen,” because when this statement is reported to credit reporting bureaus, it can be interpreted as blaming you for the loss.) Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills for evidence of new fraudulent activity. Report it immediately to credit grantors.
CREDIT REPORTING BUREAUS
Contact credit reporting bureaus for names and telephone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened. Ask the credit reporting bureaus to remove inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access. You may also ask the credit reporting bureaus to notify those who have received your credit report in the last six months in order to alert them to the disputed and erroneous information.
The nearest office of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Los Angeles might be able to give you advice on removing fraudulent claims from your credit report. Call 800-388-2227.
Immediately call the fraud units of the three credit reporting bureaus, i.e., Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Report the theft of your credit cards or numbers. Ask that your accounts be flagged. Also, add a victim’s statement to your report, up to 100 words. (“My Identification has been used to apply for credit fraudulently. Contact me at (telephone number) to verify all applications.”) Be sure to ask how long the fraud alert is posted on your account, and how you can extend it if necessary. Be aware that these measures may not entirely stop new fraudulent accounts from being opened by an imposter. Ask the credit bureaus in writing to provide you with free copies every few months so you can monitor your credit report.
- To report fraud call: 800-525-6285 or 800-685-1111
- P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- To dispute information in credit report write: P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
- To opt out of pre-approved offers of credit write: Equifax Options, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
EXPERIAN (formerly TRW)
- To report fraud call: 800-301-7195 or fax 800-301-7196
- To contact Experian Consumer Fraud Assistance write: P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013
- To order a copy of credit report write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-2104
- To dispute information in credit report contact: Experian at the address or telephone number provided on your credit report.
- To opt out of pre-approved offers of credit and marketing lists call: 800-353-0809
- To report fraud call: 800-680-7289
- to report fraud write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634
- To order a copy of credit report write: P.O. Box 390, Springfield, PA 19064 or call 800-916-8800
- To dispute information in credit report call: 800-888-4213
- Telephone number provided on credit report or use “investigation request form” provided by Trans Union when you order your report.
- To opt out of pre-approved offers of credit and marketing lists call: 888-5OPTOUT
Remember, if you have been denied credit you are entitled to a free credit report. If you are the victim of fraud, be sure to ask the credit reporting bureau for a free copy of your credit report. In 1997, a law became effective requiring credit reporting bureaus to provide credit reports free of charge to victims of Identity Theft.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
If your Social Security number has been used fraudulently, report the problem to the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 800-269-0271. You may also order your Earnings and Benefits Statement by call the SSA at 800-772-1213. For extreme cases of Identity Theft, they may be willing to change your Social Security number.
DIRECT MARKETING ASSOCIATION
To remove your name from mailing lists write to: Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735
To remove your name from telephone lists write to: Telephone Preference Service, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735.
When Identity Theft occurs, you need to act quickly, know what to do, who to contact and fully understand your rights under the law. Identity Theft exerts great emotional distress on its victims. Damage containment in each fraud case depends on how deeply the imposter has invaded your personal, professional and financial life. There are many preparatory actions one can take to prevent Identity Theft.
This information is meant to educate consumers. You can never be too careful, prepared, or aware. Share this information with family and friends. Schedule family discussions, ensure everyone is aware and prepared in the event an identity thief strikes.
Personal Safety: If you see Something-Say Something.
By taking a few simple precautions, you can reduce the risk to yourself, and also discourage those who commit crime.
- Always be alert and aware of the people around you.
- Educate yourself concerning prevention tactics.
- Be aware of locations and situations which would make you vulnerable to crime, such as alleys and dark parking lots.
- Whenever possible, travel with a friend.
- Stay in well-lighted areas as much as possible.
- Walk close to the curb. Avoid door-ways, bushes and alleys where someone could hide.
- Walk confidently, and at a steady pace.
- Make eye contact with people when walking.
- Do not respond to conversation from strangers on the street, continue walking.
- If you carry a purse, hold it securely between your arm and your body.
- Always lock car doors after entering or leaving your car.
- Park in well-lighted areas.
- Have your car keys in your hand so you don’t have to linger before entering your car.
- Check the back seat before entering your car.
- If you think you are being followed, drive to a public place or a police, sheriff or fire station.
- If your car breaks down, open the hood and attach a white cloth to the car antenna. If someone stops to help, stay in the locked car, roll down the window a little and ask them to call the police or sheriff or a tow trucking service.
- Don’t stop to aid motorists stopped on the side of the road. Go to a phone and request help for them.
- Never leave your purse or billfold in plain view or in the pocket of a jacket hanging on a door.
- Personal property should be marked with your driver’s license number (preceded with the letters ‘CA’).
- Don’t leave cash or valuables at the office.
- If you work alone or before/after normal business hours, keep the office door locked.
- If you work late, try to find another worker or a security guard to walk out with you.
- If you are in the elevator with another person, stand near the control panel. If you are attacked, press the alarm and as many of the control buttons as possible.
- Be alert for pickpockets on crowded elevators.
- Report all suspicious people and activities to the proper authorities: office manager, building security, law enforcement.
- Be aware of escape routes for emergencies, and post the phone numbers of the police and fire departments near telephones. Call 911if the situation is life-threatening.
If a crime occurs – report it!
Everyone should consider it his/her responsibility to report crime. Many criminals target favorite areas and have predictable methods of operation. When you report all the facts about a crime, it helps the police assign officers in the places where crimes are occurring or where they are most likely to occur. At least one out of two crimes in the United States goes unreported, either because people don’t think the police can do anything about it, or because people don’t want to get involved. If you don’t report crime, this allows the criminal to continue to operate without interference.
In many cases, it is the information provided by victims and witnesses that leads to the arrest of a criminal. So tell the police as much as you can; no fact is too trivial. The police need the eyes and ears of all citizens.
Violent Crime and Personal Safety
Tips and resources to help prevent violent crime, plus information and publications for victims of violence
The news is full of stories about people who have been raped, robbed, mugged, or otherwise assaulted, and everyone cringes when they hear these reports. Who hasn’t feared becoming one of these victims? The truth, however, is that the incidence of personal violence has dropped to its lowest level in almost three decades.
Violent crime – murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault – was down from a high of 52.3 incidents per 1,000 people in 1981 to just 21.1 incidents per 1,000 in 2004, according to statistics compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice. Aggravated assault – which involves attack with a weapon or attack without a weapon that results in serious injury – was down even more sharply, from 12.4 incidents per 1,000 people in 1977 to just 4.3 incidents per 1,000 in 2004.
Everyone – and this applies to residents of big cities, small towns, and even rural areas – needs to be careful, but these lower rates of crime are evidence that if people are vigilant and take common-sense precautions, crime can be prevented.
Protect Yourself From Violent Crime
A list of tips for adults on staying safe
Don’t walk or jog early in the morning or late at night when the streets are deserted.
When out at night, try to have a friend walk with you.
Carry only the money you’ll need on a particular day.
Don’t display your cash or any other inviting targets such as pagers, cell phones, hand-held electronic games, or expensive jewelry and clothing.
If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. If the person continues to follow you, move quickly toward an open store or restaurant or a lighted house. Don’t be afraid to yell for help.
Try to park in well-lighted areas with good visibility and close to walkways, stores, and people.
Make sure you have your key out as you approach your door.
Always lock your car, even if it’s in your own driveway; never leave your motor running.
Do everything you can to keep a stranger from getting into your car or to keep a stranger from forcing you into his or her car.
If a dating partner has abused you, do not meet him or her alone. Do not let him or her in your home or car when you are alone.
If you are a battered spouse, call the police or sheriff immediately. Assault is a crime, whether committed by a stranger or your spouse or any other family member. If you believe that you and your children are in danger, call a crisis hotline or a health center (the police can also make a referral) and leave immediately.
If someone tries to rob you, give up your property—don’t give up your life.
If you are robbed or assaulted, report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
What to Teach Kids About Strangers: Information about the differences between strangers kids should look out for and strangers kids can trust
Kids see strangers every day in stores, in the park, and in their neighborhoods. Most of these strangers are nice, normal people, but a few may not be. Parents can protect their children from dangerous strangers by teaching them about strangers and suspicious behavior, and by taking a few precautions of their own.
Who is a stranger?
A stranger is anyone that your family doesn’t know well. It’s common for children to think that “bad strangers” look scary, like the villains in cartoons. This is not true and dangerous for children to think this way. Pretty strangers can be just as dangerous as the not-so-pretty ones. When you talk to your children about strangers, explain that no one can tell if strangers are nice or not nice just by looking at them and that they should be careful around all strangers.
But don’t make it seem like all strangers are bad. If children need help–whether they’re lost, being threatened by a bully, or being followed by a stranger–the safest thing for them to do in many cases is to ask a stranger for help. You can make this easier for them by showing them which strangers are okay to trust.
Who are safe strangers?
Safe strangers are people children can ask for help when they need it. Police officers and firefighters are two examples of very recognizable safe strangers. Teachers, principals, and librarians are adults children can trust too, and they are easy to recognize when they’re at work. But make sure that you emphasize that whenever possible, children should go to a public place to ask for help.
You can help your children recognize safe strangers by pointing them out when you’re out in your town. Also show your children places they can go if they need help, such as local stores and restaurants and the homes of family friends in your neighborhood.
Recognizing and Handling Dangerous Situations
Perhaps the most important way parents can protect their children is to teach them to be wary of potentially dangerous situations – this will help them when dealing with strangers as well as with known adults who may not have good intentions. Help children recognize the warning signs of suspicious behavior, such as when an adult asks them to disobey their parents or do something without permission, asks them to keep a secret, asks children for help, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way. Also tell your children that an adult should never ask a child for help, and if one does ask for their help, teach them to find a trusted adult right away to tell what happened.
You should also talk to your children about how they should handle dangerous situations. One ways is to teach them “No, Go, Yell, Tell.” If in a dangerous situations, kids should say no, run away, yell as loud as they can, and tell a trusted adult what happened right away. Make sure that your children know that it is okay to say no to an adult in a dangerous situation and to yell to keep them safe, even if they are indoors. It’s good to practice this in different situations so that your children will feel confident in knowing know what to do. Here are a few possible scenarios:
A nice-looking stranger approaches your child in the park and asks for help finding the stranger’s lost dog.
A woman who lives in your neighborhood but that the child has never spoken to invites your child into her house for a snack.
A stranger asks if your child wants a ride home from school.
Your child thinks he or she is being followed.
An adult your child knows says or does something that makes him or her feel bad or uncomfortable.
While your child is walking home from a friend’s house, a car pulls over and a stranger asks for directions.
What Else Parents Can Do
In addition to teaching children how to recognize and handle dangerous situations and strangers, there are a few more things parents can do to help their children stay safe and avoid dangerous situations.
Know where your children are at all times. Make it a rule that your children must ask permission or check in with you before going anywhere. Give your children your work and cell phone numbers so they can reach you at all times.
Point out safe places. Show your children safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take, and safe places to go if there’s trouble.
Teach children to trust their instincts. Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away as fast as they can and tell an adult. Tell them that sometimes adults they know may make them feel uncomfortable, and they should still get away as fast as possible and tell another adult what happened. Reassure children that you will help them when they need it.
Teach your children to be assertive. Make sure they know that it’s okay to say no to an adult and to run away from adults in dangerous situations.
Encourage your children to play with others. There’s safety in numbers!
Leaving Kids Home Alone: Advice for parents on making sure kids are safe while home alone
Many parents must choose between leaving their children home alone during the day while they are at work or busy with other commitments, or finding alternative care. Parents often worry when their children are home alone, but there are precautions they can take to ease their worries and help protect their children when they’re not around.
What parents can do:
Stay in touch. Call children throughout the day to ask how they are and what they are doing. Ask children to check in before they leave the house and to call again when they return.
Keep kids connected. Post important numbers by the telephone, including parent’s work and cell phone, the doctor’s office, and a neighbor or a nearby relative who can help children quickly if they need it. Practice what to do in an emergency. Teach children how to dial 911 or “0” and when to do it. Ask questions like “If someone is trying to get in the house, what should you do?” “If you get hurt, what should you do?” and “If you want to play at a friend’s house, what should you do?”
Set firm rules. Make clear what children are allowed to do and what they aren’t allowed to do. Can they use the Internet when home alone? Can they invite a friend over? Can they invite several friends over?
Make Sure Your Children Are Ready
All children mature differently, so there is no precise age when they are ready to stay home alone. This makes the decision to leave children alone even harder for parents. Many states have laws concerning the legal age when children can be left unsupervised, but there is no guarantee that when children reach this age they will be ready. However, there are questions parents can ask themselves to help determine if their children are ready.
Can your children:
Be trusted to go straight home after school or after playing at a neighbor’s house?
Easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances Follow rules and instructions well?
Handle unexpected situations without panicking?
Stay home alone without being afraid?
Say their full name, address, and telephone number?
If you feel comfortable leaving your children home alone and feel that they are ready, discuss it with them and start practicing what they should and shouldn’t do. Role play different scenarios to prepare them for anything that might happen when they are home alone.
Teen Victims of Crime: Facts about teen victims of crimes and how to protect yourself
Some facts about victims of crimes….
Each year more than 40 million Americans are victimized at home, at school, or on the street.
For all major types of crimes, people aged 12 to 19 are the most frequent victims.
Almost half of violent crimes are committed by a victim’s acquaintance or relative. Nearly half the violent crimes against teens are committed by someone the victim knows at least well enough to recognize.
The younger a person is, at least down to the age of 16, the more likely he or she is to be a victim.
What You Can Do
Almost everyone knows someone who has been a victim of crime. With all crime there is the possibility of physical, emotional, or financial repercussions. Just because someone did not sustain physical injuries doesn’t mean that they weren’t affected by the incident. The effects of crime can even be seen in the larger sense, as crime takes its toll on the whole community. People start to feel more unsafe, teens worry about walking to school, and people start to isolate themselves.
If a friend becomes a victim of crime there are steps you can take to help that person. Three things you can say to help the victim are (1) I’m sorry it happened (2) It wasn’t your fault (3) How can I help? Try your best not to make the situation worse for the person but just be there to listen to them and don’t judge. Encourage that person to notify the police if they have not done so already.