Crime & the Elderly

Crime & the Elderly

Older people are often targets for robbery, purse snatching, pick-pocketing, car theft, or a number of scams. During a crime, an older person is more likely to be seriously hurt than someone who is younger. But, even though there are risks, don't let the fear of crime stop you from enjoying life. Be careful and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some “do's and don’ts”  that can help you fight crime and stay safe.

Be Safe at Home

• Do try to make sure that your locks, doors, and windows are strong and cannot be broken easily. Consider a good alarm system. Make sure they are locked—both when you are in the house and when you're away.

• Do make a list of your expensive belongings. You might even take pictures of the most valuable items. Store these papers in a safe place.

• Don't open your door before you know who's there. Look through the peephole or a safe window first. Ask any stranger for proof of identity before opening the door. Remember, you don't have to open the door if you feel uneasy.

• Don't keep large amounts of money in the house.

• Do get to know your neighbors. Join a Neighborhood Watch Program if your community has one.

Be Street Smart

     • Do try to stay alert. Walk with a friend. Stay away from unsafe places like dark parking lots or alleys.

     • Do keep your car doors locked at all times and park in well-lit areas.

     • Don't open your car door or roll down your window for strangers.

     • Do carry your purse close to your body with the strap over your shoulder and across your chest.

     • Don't resist a robber. Hand over your cash right away if confronted.

Be Safe with Your Money

• Do have your monthly pension or Social Security checks sent right to the bank for direct deposit.

• Don't carry a lot of cash. Put your wallet, money, or credit cards in an inside pocket.

• Don't keep your check book and credit cards together. A thief could use the card to forge your signature on checks.

Fight Fraud

Older people may be victims of frauds like con games and insurance, home repair, telephone, or internet scams. The following tips may help:

• Don't be afraid to hang up on telephone salespeople. You aren't being impolite. You are taking care of yourself! Remember, you can say no to any offer.

• Don't give any personal information, including your credit card number or bank account, over the phone unless you were the one who made the call.

• Don't be fooled by deals that seem too good to be true. They probably are. Beware of deals that ask for a lot of money up front and promise you more money later. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to get more information about the record of any company before doing business with them.

Avoid Identity Theft

How can someone steal your identity? Using your name, Social Security number, or credit card without your okay is called identity theft and it's a serious crime. Be sure to protect yourself:

• Do keep information about your checking account private. Put all new and cancelled checks in a safe place, report any stolen checks right away, and carefully look at your monthly bank account statement.

• Do shred everything that has personal information about you written on it.

• Do be very careful when buying things online. Websites without security may not protect your credit card or bank account information. Look for information saying that a website has a secure server before buying anything online (it will have https://, not http:// in front of it).

• Do check with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to find out how to protect yourself from common online scams that can trick you into revealing your personal or financial information.

By National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health