Senior citizens continue to be the fastest-growing segment of our population, and that makes seniors a prime target for con artists and thieves.

Crime prevention is everyone's responsibility, not just law enforcement. One of the best ways to take an active part in crime prevention is to become more alert and aware of what is going on around you. Crime can be reduced by following some simple measures like locking your doors, watching out for your neighbors, and keeping your personal information secure. Seniors are often targets as criminals focus on their vulnerabilities. It is important to remember you can avoid becoming the victim of an illegal scheme or scam by simply refusing to participate.

Protecting Yourself and Your Home

Seniors are living longer and more independently than ever before. We all need and want a feeling of security in the safety of our homes. Your home should be a safe haven. Most burglaries occur during daylight hours and many intruders gain access through open or poorly secured doors and windows.

Here are some precautions you can take to keep you and your home safe.

  1. Install solid, easy-to-use locks on your doors and windows, including sliders and garage.
  2. Use deadbolt locks on all the doors.
  3. Don't hide extra keys under the doormats or in planters, etc.-leave an extra set with a neighbor or friend.
  4. Install a peephole and make sure you use it.
  5. Never open the door to strangers. If a stranger asks to use your phone, offer to make the call for them.
  6. Ask service technicians or care providers you don't know for ID before you open the door.
  7. Trim trees and shrubs to eliminate hiding places.
  8. Keep your home well lit at night, inside and out.
  9. Draw the curtains and blinds at night.
  10. Engrave your valuables (don't use your Social Security number) and list their serial numbers and description.

Protecting Yourself in the Community

As our population ages and the number of senior citizens continues to increase, seniors have more and more opportunities to participate in civic groups, health programs, travel activities and entertainment.

Use these tips to increase your personal security in the community.

  1. Do your activities in pairs-have a companion for shopping, walking, etc.
  2. Carry a small purse or bag, not one with a strap that can easily be cut or grabbed.
  3. Carry your purse close to your body.
  4. Don't carry credit cards you don't need or large amounts of cash. Contact your bank about free direct deposit of your government check. Criminals are keenly aware of when government checks arrive.
  5. When taking public transportation sit near the driver or close to an exit.
  6. If possible, ask the driver to watch until you are safely in the house.
  7. Always keep the doors and window locked in your car.
  8. Don't leave your purse or packages on the seat beside you-put them on the floor or in your trunk.
  9. Travel well lit streets and plan your route-be aware of your surroundings.
  10. When returning to your car check the front and back seats before entering.
  11. Never pick up hitchhikers.

Protecting Yourself Against Fraud and Scams

Each year billions of dollars are lost to fraudulent activities. Telemarketing, health care, home equity and home improvement fraud and identity theft are just a few of the scams conducted over the phone, by mail, through the internet and door-to-door. Seniors are often targets as criminals focus on their vulnerabilities.

Here are some guidelines to help ensure the safety of your assets.

  1. Never give out your Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers.
  2. Destroy personal information on documents before discarding them-use a shredder if possible
  3. Don't fall for things that sound too good to be true-money, vacations, sweepstakes prizes, health cures, or low risk/high yield investment schemes.
  4. Do not agree to any home improvement or sales contract until you verify the existence and reputation of the business. Be sure all contractors you hire are licensed, bonded and insured.
  5. Have a lawyer or someone you trust examine any document before you sign it.
  6. Don't give money to a charitable organization until you verify its legitimacy by contacting the Attorney General's Office. Legitimate organizations do not require immediate response and should provide information by mail.
  7. Never send cash in the mail, or allow anyone to pick up a check at your home.