October is Crime Prevention Month and National Cyber Security Awareness Month. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, many older adults are more fearful due to their age, physical problems, health and life experiences. But being aware of potential dangers and taking steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and your home can go a long way in reducing fear and actually increasing your safety.
You should always be aware of what is going on around you when you are out and about. Go with a friend or family member if possible; being alone makes you a more attractive target. Carry only the cash or credit cards you need, hold your purse close to your body and put wallets in a front coat or pants pocket. Have Social Security and other regular checks deposited directly into your bank or checking account instead of being sent to your mailbox. When driving, keep the doors locked, and stay alert as you walk in parking garages or lots. Thieves are more likely to avoid someone who has their head up, walks with purpose, has a secure grip on purse and packages, and is ready with keys in hand.
At home, make sure all doors and windows have good, secure locks and install a security system if possible. Never let someone claiming to be a salesman, delivery, repairman, utility worker, health care worker, or anyone else into your home without being certain of their identity.
Call the company they represent to verify their name and purpose of their visit if you’re unsure, and trust your instincts if something or someone just doesn’t feel right. Take a look at your house from the street to make sure your house numbers and front entrance are well lit and easily seen for emergency crews as well as your guests.
And just as important, take every security measure with your computer, mobile phone, tablet and all the other electronic devices you use. It’s a good time to take stock of your internet security measures and make sure you are doing everything you can to protect yourself and your identity.
Lock your phone and tablet and use a strong password that does not include numbers or names from your personal information. If lost or stolen, thieves cannot get access to any information or apps on your phone or tablet if it is locked. Use a good anti-virus and security program on your computer, and keep operating systems and security programs up to date on all your devices. E mails offering free trips or a big lottery or sweepstakes win are scams so never respond to them or send any personal information. Other scams include e mails that look like they are from your bank or credit card company and announce some kind of problem with your account. Thieves, con artists and scammers often target older Americans with messages and e mails for fraudulent charities, identity theft, telemarketing fraud, home improvement scams and even grandparent scams. If an e mail or offer looks at all suspicious, even if it was forwarded to you from a friend, trust your gut and delete the message without opening. And never give out any personal or financial information unless it is on a secure, trusted website. With a little vigilance and common sense, you can help to protect yourself from cybercrime.