Crime Prevention Tips

How to avoid becoming a victim

  • DON’T discuss your personal finances with strangers.
  • DON’T withdraw cash at the suggestion of someone you don’t know.
  • DON’T accept that a person is official or legitimate without checking first.
  • DON’T believe stories that sound too good to be true, invariably they’re not.
  • DON’T be embarrassed to report that you have been victimized.
  • DO call the police if approached with any story similar to those described in this article.
  • DO testify in court, if asked, to help stop this kind of crime.
  • DO tell your friends and neighbors about bunco schemes.

Personal Safety Tips

Personal Protection

Most of us have been the victim of either a burglary or theft and have felt the emotional and financial effects of such property crime. Violent crimes such as murder, rape, assault and robbery have a much greater impact on our lifestyle. Our inherent fear of a violent confrontation causes most of us to make everyday decisions based on our personal safety. “Is this a safe Neighborhood?” or “Is it safe to take a walk at night” are frequent questions that reflect a concern that controls our behavior. How can we minimize our fear of violent crime? What steps can be taken to actually reduce our vulnerability to crime such as street robbery? The following will shed some light on these questions.

Avoiding Trouble

Pedestrians: Plan so that you are most visible to other people. This means that if you must walk alone, choose open, well-lighted and well-traveled areas. Crooks don’t like to strike where eyewitnesses can provide the police with a detailed account. Leave your purse at home if possible. If you must carry one, hold it firmly, close to your body. Purse-snatchers prefer to grab from behind. If you walk or jog, especially at night, consider getting a dog that can accompany you on a leash. Criminal offenders relate that a dog is one of the most effective crime deterrents. If you work late hours, arrange to leave at the same time as a co-worker. Try to avoid parking far away from your worksite. Be aware of your surroundings at all times by making eye contact with passersby and glancing occasionally behind you. This type of “body language” will make you less attractive to a prospective mugger. If you sense that you are being followed, change direction or cross the street. If the person persists, run to the nearest place where you’ll find people. DON’T allow a stranger to follow you to your doorstep. Go to a public place where you can call the police whenever you feel threatened. When fleeing from danger alert others as well as the person posing a threat. Yell “Fire…Fire…Fire!” or activate an alarm device such as an aerosol shriek alarm. This device is a hand held noisemaker that, when carried, may dissuade a crook from choosing you in the first place.

Drivers: Avoid fumbling for your keys; have them in your hand as you approach your car. Always check the back seat for uninvited guests before getting inside. Keep enough gas in the tank so you won’t get stranded. Keep all doors locked and windows rolled up most of the way. Stay on well-traveled, well-lighted roads. If you are being followed by another car, drive into an open gas station, stay in your car, and ask the attendant to call the police. Better yet, drive straight to the nearest police station for assistance. Park only in well-lighted areas at night. Check for strangers who might be “casing” the area before you exit your car. Honk your horn and drive away if such a person advances toward you. If you are “rear-ended” by another vehicle, motion for the driver to follow you to a public place. “Bump and rob” artists stage such accidents to lure unsuspecting drivers out of their cars to rob them of their wallet or purse. If a driver won’t follow you, obtain as thorough a description as you can and report the incident to the police. If your car breaks down, seek a phone or call box only if safe to do so. Place a “Call Police” banner in your rear window and raise the hood. If a “good Samaritan” approaches, crack a window and ask them to call the police or your tow company.

At Home: Check for signs of forced entry such as broken glass, a torn screen or pry marks before venturing inside. Make it a habit to leave a few dollars out in the open near your entryway. Back out quietly if you see the money is gone. NEVER feel reluctant to call the police if you sense a possibility of an intruder inside. Screen all strangers knocking at your door. Interview them through a one-way peephole while your door is locked. Anyone who refuses to present his or her employee I.D. upon request should be reported to the police. Properly secure all openings at nighttime. “Cat burglars” are deterred when the only means of gaining entry would require breaking glass or smashing a door. Don’t assume that upper floor windows are too high for a burglar’s reach.

If You Become a Victim: Some confrontations are unavoidable. When you consider that 4 out of 10 violent crime victimization by strangers involve an armed offender, it’s vital that you be prepared to minimize your risk of injury. Be willing to give up your valuables. A purse, wallet or jewelry is not worth fighting for when facing someone wielding a weapon. Carry only as much cash, as you need. If confronted, try to stay calm. An assailant will be less likely to attack you if you appear controlled and self-confident. Try to mentally note your assailant’s appearance without staring. Use physical self- defense techniques only as a last resort to protect yourself when attacked. Go to the phone and dial 9-1-1 as soon as possible. Let the police operator take charge and instruct you. Remember, your quick actions in notifying the police will increase their chance of apprehending the suspect and preventing future victims.

Protect Yourself From Con Games

Every year unsuspecting citizens are swindled out of their savings by con artists; smooth talking, often convincing criminals who seek by various schemes to separate honest people from their money. While these criminals prey primarily on the elderly, every one of us is susceptible; men and women, the successful and the unemployed, working people and the retired. You could be approached by a con artist almost anywhere, out-side a bank or savings and loan, at a bus stop, at a Senior Citizens meeting, while you’re shopping, or at your home.

While approaches may vary, and the con artist may appear perfectly normal and friendly, there inevitably comes a time when you will be asked to withdraw money from your savings. The reason for this may seem logical; to show your “good faith”…to help in the investigation of a “dishonest employee.” BE ON YOUR GUARD. If you do turn over money to one of these people, even for a moment, you will never see it again.

The following are three common “bunco” schemes:

THE BANK EXAMINER SCHEME – If a stranger tells you that he or she is an examiner or investigator and asks you to help catch a dishonest employee, BEWARE. If you seem interested, the con artist will say he or she will re-deposit your money in such a way that the “dishonest” teller will be caught red-handed. The phony examiner will pick up your money and give you a fake receipt, never to be seen or heard from again. A simple preventative measure would be to call and check with your financial institution before doing anything. Banks never involve their account holders in investigations.

THE PIGEON DROP SCHEME – If a stranger or strangers tell you they have found some money, and try to convince you that it was ill gotten by the loser (maybe a gambler) and can be kept, BEWARE. You will be told you may share the find if you withdraw money from your savings to show “good faith” and responsibility. You may think you have your money in view, but the envelope or bag will be quickly switched. Only on going back to re-deposit your money do you discover you have only pieces of blank paper.

THE AUTOMOBILE AND HOME REPAIR SCHEME – Vagabond thieves frequently do auto body repair work to earn extra money. They will drive around town looking for dented vehicles and, after locating one and its owner, they inform the owner that they can make the repairs cheaply. After the work is done the thieves may then say the job was complicated and charge an exorbitant fee. Vagabond thieves also use various introductory statements to induce homeowners to allow them to repair or tar roofs, or resurface driveways.

Fraud Against Seniors

Each year hundreds of seniors over the age of 60 fall victim to a wide variety of fly-by-night house repair and investment scams. Such scams range from the sale of misidentified rare coins and the telemarketing of nonexistent oil wells to the sale of worthless or overpriced insurance policies and misrepresentations used to sell unnecessary and overpriced living trusts and personal emergency response systems.

There are many common practices con artists use to defraud seniors, but most are a variation of these three: telemarketing, mail and door-to-door sales. While many scams involve both mailings and telemarketing, some use all three methods. For example, many con artists will generate leads by mailing a survey to gauge interest in a product or service. Consumers, who show interest, usually by returning a postcard, are then contacted by telephone or a traveling salesperson who makes the sales pitch.

Below are examples of current consumer scams you should be aware of.

Study the examples and learn the warning signs of a con artist at work. This knowledge will help to thwart activities of con artists.

Home Improvement Schemes: The home improvement worker may drive a car or truck through a neighborhood where seniors live looking for residents outside of their home. The worker offers to pave the driveway, repair the roof, or paint the house with supplies left over from another job. In some cases, services may be offered through ads, fliers, or handouts. The work is then completed quickly and is often shoddy. A warning sign to the consumer is when the worker announces a serious problem. You should also be aware of any offer that is good only for that particular day, a demand of cash payment, or a refusal by the home improvement worker to provide references.

Please note that if you are confronted with such suspicious behavior, you should contact the Police immediately. Also, before signing a contract for home repairs, get a second opinion and take at least 24 hours to consider the purchase.

Living Trust Schemes: A living trust is designed to allow the maker to identify his or her heirs and to share with them money or other possessions upon death of the maker. Often seniors are targeted by unsolicited visits, phone calls, and mail. In addition, a number of seniors are targeted by unsolicited visits from untrained salespeople who tell them they need a living will or trust. The salesperson will offer membership into an organization that falsely alleges that probate can be avoided through a living trust.

The salesperson will often emphasize that a living trust avoids inheritance tax to heirs. The membership organization will often offer prepaid legal benefits, medical benefits, and other services that are grossly exaggerated and often are not honored when needed. A warning sign to seniors regarding this type of scam is when membership offers “peace of mind benefits” that seem too good to be true. If the benefits seem too good to be true, they probably are not true. Contact an attorney to have a living trust drafted. Do not rely on door-to-door sales or accepted unsolicited offers by telephone or through the mail.

Auto Repair Schemes: Auto repair scams upon seniors are lucrative for the con artists. Several characteristics of auto repair scams are when the facility does not give written estimates or a completion date for the repair. Further, the facility does not make replaced parts available and performs repairs not contracted for. When the senior citizen goes to pick up the automobile, the repairperson presents a bill much larger than expected. The repairperson then holds the auto until the bill is paid in full. Be aware of warning signals that may help you from becoming a victim of auto repair scams.

If a facility refuses to warranty the work or fails to offer a work or a satisfaction guarantee to the customer, you should steer away from that facility. Another warning signal is if the repair facility fails to get authorization to use rebuilt parts as opposed to new parts or if there is a constant delay in returning the car.

Through education and awareness, seniors can be empowered to use reasonable precautions in avoiding con games and scams.

Additional Resources

Home Safety For Kids
The Ideal Home for the Autistic Child: Physiological Rationale for Design Strategies
Important Post-Rehab Home Modifications to Eliminate Triggers and Prevent Stressful Situations
What Moms Need to Know in Case of Intruders
How to Prep For Every Type of Natural Disaster
Senior Home Safety: 25 Tips To Make Home Safe
Guide to Puppy Proofing Your Home And Garden
Disaster Safety and Prevention: Protecting Your Home and Family

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