Resources

How Senior Citizens Can Protect Themselves

You don’t necessarily need physical strength, agility, speed, or expensive security devices to protect yourself. But you do need to be alert, cautious, and self-confident.

Crime is a frightening problem, especially for senior citizens.

You can learn how to reduce your chances of becoming a crime victim.

How to protect yourself?

You can start by learning some basic crime prevention information. Criminals look for the easiest opportunities. Look for and remove any opportunities before criminals spot them.

At home, consider these tips:

  • Lock windows. Draw curtains and blinds at night. Also, put fire department-approved grates on the ground floor and fire escape windows.
  • Keep doors locked. Install easy-to-use deadbolt locks. Do Not attach an ID tag to your key ring. Install new locks if you move to a new home or lose your key.
  • Keep garage and basement doors locked.

Beware of phone and Internet scams.

  • Don’t give personal or financial information over the phone or Internet unless you initiate contact.
  • Hang up on nuisance callers.
  • Don’t open or respond to emails from people you don’t know.

Protect Valuables.

  • Keep money and securities in a bank.
  • Have your Social Security or pension check deposited directly into your account.
  • Mark all valuables with an ID number (your license number or social security number or your birthday) and your state’s abbreviation.

Find out about alarm systems.

If you are away a lot or have many valuables, an alarm may be worth the cost.

Organize a buddy system

  • Have neighbors watch each others’ homes or form security patrols.
  • Do laundry, shopping, or errands in groups.
  • You are safer if you have company.
  • Leashed dogs of any size will deter most muggers.

When you go out.

Secure your home.

  • Leave outside lights on.
  • Don’t leave notes about your return.
  • Leave a radio or TV and a light on.
  • Make sure all entries are locked.
  • Go to police department and place your home on the House Watch program.

Secure your wallet.

  • Do not carry large amounts of cash.
  • Carry your wallet in a safe inside pocket or on a chain attached to your belt.
  • Avoid using ATMs alone at night. Keep your person identification number (PIN) private.

Take care with your purse.

  • Leave your purse at home, if possible.
  • Do not us a purse with a shoulder strap as you could be thrown to the ground and injured if it is snatched.

Plan your route.

  • Choose a safe, familiar and well-lit route.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you should arrive.

Prevent crime when you return home.

  • Have your key out and ready.
  • Have the driver watch until you are inside.
  • Don’t enter an elevator alone with a stranger.
  • Be alert for anyone hiding nearby.

At the door, at the store, or on the phone or Internet

Protect yourself against these common types of consumer crimes:

  • Medical Fraud- Ask your health-care provider for advice before buying into “miracle cures” or special deals. Use caution when purchasing prescription drugs over the Internet.
  • Sweepstakes Scams- Don’t pay anything or give your credit card number in order to claim a “free prize”.
  • Land-in-the-sun deals- Never buy sight unseen. Check out the property and the seller.
  • Insurance Fraud- Carefully read offers that claim large benefits at low rates. They may be exaggerated.
  • Business Schemes- Beward of work-at-home job offers with “registration” fees.
  • Home Repairs- Avoid “free inspections”. Deal only with firms you trust to avoid unnecessary repairs. Ask to see licenses.
  • Bait and Switch- Stores lure you in for a “bargain” then try to sell you a more expensive model.
  • Fear-sell Tactics- Beware of sales claims that play on your fears of misfortune.
  • “Harmless” Contracts- Fine-print clauses can cost you plenty! Read contracts carefully and ignore verbal promises.
  • Referral Selling- You may get the “disount” only if you get friends to buy, too.
  • Pressure Tactics-Beware of salespeople who rush your decision.
  • Debt Consolidation- Watch out for sky-high interest rates in these plans.
  • Before you agree to anything– check out offers with the Better Business Bureau and get advice from people you trust.
  • Don’t sign anything you don’t understand. See a lawyer, if needed.
  • If you aren’t getting straight answers, end the conversation.

Watch for “Con games” and identity theft

  • Bank Scams-A person claiming to be a “bank official” or “detective” asks for you to help “catch a crooked teller”. You withdraw your savings, then the “bank examiner” takes it to be “counted”.
  • Charity Scams-Someone claims to be collecting money for a charity, but they refuse to provide written information about the organization or tell you how donations are used.
  • Phony bills- A surviving spouse is sent bills for phony debts or purchases.
  • Identity Theft- Identity thieves use your personal information for their own economic gain. They can open credit card accounts or make large purchases in your name.
  • If you suspect identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 and your local police/sheriff department.

Ways to minimize your risk:

  • Shred items with personal information before throwing them in the trash.
  • Don’t carry your Social Security Card. Leave it in a secure place. Keep your number confidential.
  • Never give credit card numbers over the phone unless you’ve placed the call yourself and you trust the company.
  • If using your credit card on the Internet, make sure the site is secure and the company is legitimate.