Crime prevention is vital for seniors and the elderly as they are an age group commonly targeted by unscrupulous individuals. There is plenty that you can do to learn to protect yourself. Follow these simple tips, and recruit backup as needed from your friends and family, and you can take a proactive approach in your own life!
General Personal Safety
- Keep your money safe by not carrying large quantities of cash when you go out.
- When possible, travel or shop with a friend. You are less likely to be intimidated or approached if you are with someone.
- Avoid giving money to panhandlers.
- If you feel threatened, go to the closest business or public space.
- If you decide to give money to the panhandler or feel threatened, do not open your purse or wallet. This showcases how much cash or other valuables you are carrying. This could encourage a panhandler to become more aggressive or try to take your property.
- Carry a cell phone for emergency purposes. Emergencies can happen at any time. Pay-as-you-go phones can be purchased for very little, and could save a life.
In the Home (Including in Senior Communities)
- Lock your door when you leave your residence and when you arrive home – always use the dead bolt.
- Don’t allow someone that you don’t know or immediately recognize into your building. Ask the person who they are, why they need into your building, and where they need to go.
- If someone tries to follow you into your building, and is acting suspiciously, use another entrance or go back to your vehicle.
- Use the peephole to see who is knocking. If you don’t recognize the person, don’t open the door.
Credit and Debit Card Safety
- Protect your bank and credit card PIN numbers. Do not share your PIN. No one should have access to this information, unless you have designated a trusted family member as a helper.
- Never provide personal information over the internet or the phone.
- If you shop online, ensure there are good security protocols in place. Review your credit card statements for information security. Only shop on reputable websites.
- Immediately advise your bank if you suspect fraud. They can help you determine what to do and what your next step may be.
- Change your bank and credit card PIN numbers regularly.
- Never provide personal information over the phone to someone you don’t know or completely trust.
- If a caller is asking for your personal information (social security number, date of birth, banking information, etc.) – hang up the phone. You can immediately end the call. It is not rude if you are protecting your personal information.
- Never provide personal information over the Internet (email, social media, websites).
- Properly shred anything with personal information on it.
- Do not hesitate to question the caller. Ask why they are calling, who they work for, or ask to speak to their supervisor. Fraud artists generally cannot answer these questions and it can identify those who have nefarious intentions.
Scams have many forms. Generally, the scam artist is attempting to get your personal information or money. Scam artists may have some information about you (your middle name or date of birth) but will not know much else. If you are suspicious, challenge the scam artist to identify themselves and give more details.
- If someone comes to your door soliciting money or posing as a company employee, ask to see their identification. If they can’t produce it, close and lock your door – call the police.
- If a caller poses as a representative of a bank, credit card company, or the IRS, you can hang up and call them directly (using the number you find in the phone book or online – not one given to you by the caller) and check with them. None of these entities EVER request personal information over the phone. The credit card company or bank may call and ask if you authorized a transaction. If you didn’t, they will close the card and reissue a card to the address on file. But never give them your address as they are supposed to already have it. They may say that this is for security purposes but you should always state that you will call them (again, not using a number they supply but one you find in a phone book or online).
- Advise your credit card company or bank if someone calls. Your credit card / bank card information may have already been stolen.
- If you are asked by someone you don’t know to send money to a family member, or close friend, it is likely a scam. Ask the caller to provide detailed information that only you and your family members know. Ask the caller about a family member that doesn’t exist. You will quickly be able to identify their legitimacy.
While crime can create special concerns for seniors, you can learn how to protect yourself, and make it tough for criminals to work in your neighborhood!
Be sure to stay tuned for the second part in this series, which will go into further details on the various ways seniors can prevent crime in their lives, and how to handle it if it does happen.