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How Seniors Can Protect Themselves Against Crime

Minimize Your Chances of Being a Victim with These Common Sense Actions

Be Alert When Out and About

  • Go with friends or family, not alone.
  • Ladies: Carry your purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps.
  • Gentlemen: Put your wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.
  • Don't carry credit cards you don't need or large amounts of cash.
  • Use direct deposit for Social Security and other regular checks.
  • Keep car doors locked, whether you're a passenger or driver.
  • Be particularly alert in parking lots and garages. Always park near an entrance.
  • Sit close to the driver or near the exit while riding the bus, train, or subway.
  • If someone or something makes you uneasy, trust your instincts and leave.

When Out Walking

  • Always plan your route and stay alert to your surroundings. Walk confidently.
  • Have a companion accompany you.
  • Stay away from buildings and doorways; walk in well-lighted areas.
  • Have your key ready when approaching your front door.
  • Don't dangle your purse away from your body. (Twelve percent of all crimes against the elderly are purse snatchings and street robberies.)
  • Don't carry large, bulky shoulder bags; carry only what you need.

When Shopping in Stores

  • Don't display large sums of cash.
  • Never leave your purse, wallet or bags unattended.
  • Use checks where possible.
  • Keep receipts separate from purchases

When in Your Car

  • Always keep your car doors locked, whether you are in or out of your car.
  • At stop signs and traffic lights, keep the car in gear.
  • Travel well-lit and busy streets. Plan your route.
  • Don't leave your purse on the seat beside you; put it on the floor, where it’s more difficult for someone to grab.
  • Lock bundles or bags in the trunk. Packages out of sight are less of a target for thieves to steal.
  • When returning to your car, check the front seat, back seat, and floor before entering.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.
  • If your car should break down, get far enough off the road, turn on your emergency flashers, raise the hood, get back into the car, lock the door, and wait for help. If a motorist stops to help you, lower your window just enough to speak to the person, but do not get out of your car.

Banking

  • Many criminals know when government checks arrive each month, and may pick that day to attack. Avoid this by using Direct Deposit, which sends your money directly from the government to the bank of your choice.
  • Store valuables in a Safe Deposit Box (not at home).
  • Never give your money to someone who calls on you, identifying himself as a bank official. A bank will never ask you to remove your money. Banks need the use of your money, and they don't want one of their customers to invite crime by having large amounts of cash around.
  • When someone approaches you with a get-rich-quick-scheme involving some or all of YOUR savings, STOP. This is probably a scam and your money will be taken. If it is a legitimate investment, the opportunity to contribute your funds will still be there tomorrow-after you have had time to consider it.

Make Your Home Safe and Secure

  • Install good locks on doors and windows and use them.
  • Don't hide keys in mailboxes, planters or under doormats. Instead, leave an extra set of keys with a neighbor or friend.
  • Ask for photo identification from service or delivery people before letting them in the door. If you are the least bit worried, call the company to verify.
  • Be sure your street address number is large, clear of obstruction, and well-lighted so police and other emergency personnel can find your home quickly.
  • Consider a home alarm system that provides emergency monitoring for burglary, fire, and medical emergencies.

When You Are Home

  • Never open your door automatically. Use an optical viewer,
  • At night, draw your blinds or draperies.
  • Lock your doors and windows. Three quarters of the burglaries involving older persons involved unlocked doors and windows; and, less than one half of these robberies are reported.
  • Keep your garage doors locked.
  • Vary your daily routine.
  • Use "Neighbor Watch" to keep an eye on your neighborhood. A concerned neighbor is often the best protection against crime because suspicious persons and activities are noticed and reported to police promptly.
  • Don't leave notes on the door when going out.
  • Leave lights on when going out at night; use a timer to turn lights on and off when you are away for an extended period.
  • Notify neighbors and the police when going away on a trip. Cancel deliveries such as newspapers and arrange for someone to mow the lawn if need be. Arrange for your mail to be held by the Post Office, or ask a neighbor to collect it for you.
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers to make repairs to your home. Deal only with reputable businesses.
  • Keep an inventory with serial numbers and photographs of resalable appliances, antiques and furniture. Leave copies in a safe place.
  • Don't hesitate to report crime or suspicious activities.

Watch Out for Con Artists

  • Don't fall for anything that sounds too good to be true — a free vacation; sweepstakes prizes; cures for cancer and arthritis; a low-risk, high yield investment scheme.
  • Never give your credit card, phone card, Social Security, or bank account number to anyone over the phone. It's illegal for telemarketers to ask for these numbers to verify a prize or gift.
  • Don't let anyone rush you into signing anything — an insurance policy, a sales agreement, a contract. Read it carefully and have someone you trust check it over.
  • Beware of individuals claiming to represent companies, consumer organizations, or government agencies that offer to recover lost money from fraudulent telemarketers for a fee.
  • If you're suspicious, check it out with the police, the Better Business Bureau, or your local consumer protection office. You can also call the National Consumers League Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060.

Get Involved in the Community

  • Report any crime or suspicious activities to law enforcement.
  • Join a Neighborhood Watch to look out for each other and help the police.
  • Work to help improve your neighborhood. Volunteer as a citizen patroller, tutor for children, office aide in the police or fire department, mentor for teens, or escort for individuals with disabilities.
  • Does your community have a Triad program? It's sponsored on a national level by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the National Sheriffs' Association. Triad promotes partnerships between senior citizens and the law enforcement community, both to prevent crime against the elderly and to help law enforcement benefit from the talents of older people. If you're interested, contact your chief of police, sheriff, or AARP chapter, or call Triad at NSA at 800-424-7827.