Senior adults can be especially vulnerable to thieves. Thieves view seniors as “easy targets” because they tend to be trusting of strangers, and they often have physical limitations that make them seem less able to defend themselves. Fortunately our local police departments offer some good advice for seniors on how they can protect themselves against theft and personal attack.
“Identity theft and credit card fraud are two of the most common crimes against seniors,” said Sgt. Chris Britton.
Britton advises seniors not to give their credit card, bank account or social security number to anyone who calls them on the phone, even if the person claims to be from the bank or the credit card company. Seniors should hang up and call the police. The same recommendation applies if you receive mail asking you for this information.
You should also protect your personal information from home health workers or repairmen who come into your home. Put your purse, wallet, checkbook, credit card statements, bank statements, passwords, PIN numbers, jewelry and valuables away in a hidden place. You can even purchase a small safe to put them in, and keep the key hidden.
Beachwood Police Detective Donn Breckenridge recommends that seniors be especially careful around the holidays.
“Don’t use your credit card at mall kiosks or restaurants that you don’t know well,” he advised. “These places often hire temporary staff for the holidays who may not be honest.”
Make sure to carry your purse around your shoulder, and never leave it unattended in a shopping cart or on a checkout counter. Men should carry their wallets in a front pocket or jacket pocket when out in public. Being aware of your surroundings can also help you stay safe.
Breckenridge added, “Walk with your head up and look around as you walk. Thieves are less likely to attack someone who sees them coming.”
Home safety is another area of concern for seniors. If someone knocks on your door, it’s best not to answer if you don’t know who is there. Keep your purse, wallet, electronic equipment and valuables out of sight, in case a thief looks in your windows or doors. Buy deadbolt locks and alarms for your doors and windows. The alarms don’t necessarily need to be monitored, but they do need to be audible and loud.
Other advice offered by the police includes shredding papers that have your credit card or social security number on them, not going to the ATM alone or at night, not carrying your social security card or your ATM PIN number in your wallet, keeping your front bushes low so that police can see in your house, and making sure that your house number is easy for police and rescue units to see from the street.
The police are always available to help. “Senior citizens should never be afraid to call the police if they are nervous or suspicious,” said Detective Breckenridge. “We would rather prevent the crime than have the senior become a victim.”
The Cleveland Heights and Beachwood police departments have representatives who will come to your home, apartment, or retirement community to give you tips on preventing crime.
The police departments also offer programs where seniors can talk with the police and ask questions. Cleveland Heights holds a program every Thursday night from 6 to 8 at , and Beachwood offers a training program every July called the Senior Citizen Police Academy. The eight-week program teaches seniors about crime prevention, safety, self-defense and CPR.
In an emergency, always call 911. For non-emergency questions, call the Cleveland Heights police at 216-321-1234 and the Beachwood police at 216-464-1234.