Elderly Security: Common Crimes Against Old People

Living alone need not force the older folks to live alone and isolated, but precautions need to be taken to prevent them from becoming victims.

In our society, unfortunately, the elderly have become a far too easy target for criminals and abusers of the world. Whether living alone or going about daily lives, the elderly are viewed as helpless and easy victims, a shameful way for them to have to live their lives. It seems that the elderly must barricade themselves behind locked doors, or become an instant victim just by going out to the grocery store or even walking in their own yard or neighborhood.

But it doesn't have to be this way. There are ways to ensure a happier and safer life for our elderly, if we carefully consider their lives, their vulnerabilities, and the threats that may consume their lives.

An elderly may well be vulnerable, and a victim waiting to be attacked, when they:

· Go out at night alone

· Live alone

· Walk alone

· Travel unfamiliar routes alone (or familiar ones, for that matter)

· Do their banking, inside or outside at automated teller machines

· Go to and from parking lots to do their shopping

· Even do something so simple as answering their telephones.

Here is a simple checklist of things an elderly person or family member might consider, to decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim:

· Always travel with friends or family when shopping, taking long trips, or even going outside for a walk. Even taking a good guard dog may deter criminals from approaching.

· Don't go out at night, especially alone. Avoid dark and unpopulated or isolated locations. Use security guards for escorting you to your car out in the parking lot, during the day as well as at night.

· Consider taking in a boarder, if you have no one else who can live with you. Just use your judgement, and even get help in checking people out before you let them move into your home.

· Install extra home security measures. Use locks, alarms, chains, and other means.

· Don't give out your personal information over the phone, and never buy anything over the phone. Always request the caller to send you information in the mail. Oftentimes, if the offer isn't legitimate to begin with, the caller will tell you the offer is only good for that moment over the phone. No offer is worth that risk. Even if you receive information in the mail, take it to someone you trust, so that together you can evaluate it and decide how much of a risk or scam it might be.

· Have someone call and/or come by to check on you on a regular basis. There are even some services available, companies who specialize in calling to check on elderly and shut-ins. Just make sure someone always knows where you are and how you are doing.

· Carry a cell phone with you, especially when out on long trips. Have this means of emergency contact, should you have car trouble or run into some suspicious looking person.

· Don't pick up hitchhikers. We hear the admonition quite often in today's time, but many elders may still believe that life is the same as it was in the days of their youth. At one time, hitching a ride was the only way a person could travel, and picking up a stranger was little danger to the driver. But times have changed so dramatically. Don't take any chances. Let that person find another ride. Or, if you see someone who appears to be stranded with car trouble, drive on by and stop at the nearest phone - in a populated and well-lit area - and call for help for him or her.

· Shred all of your documents before tossing them into the trash. Sifting through garbage is a full time activity for many crooks. Just imagine what information you may be unknowingly giving them in the seemingly harmless papers you discard. Do strangers need to know your social security number, bank account number, phone number, or any other personal or private information? Even a harmless letter you wrote, then re-wrote, to a friend or loved one, can give a stranger just enough information to deceive you into letting them into your life. What do most of us do with discarded personal letters that we have re-written? They usually end up in the garbage, crumpled, yet intact.

· Don't allow strangers into your home. If you are expecting a repairman or some delivery, have someone you know and trust be there with you. Also, don't leave your valuables lying out in plain site, even if you have someone there with you. It would be very easy for a dishonest person to check out your home and be quite tempted by the site of a purse, wallet, or jewelry casually lying about. Don't give them the chance to see what you have. Put temptation out of their reach.

· Have some outside activities to keep yourself active and alert. Take a class, join an exercise group, or learn a new skill. You might even want to consider taking a self-defense class or some other lesson that could help you navigate your elder years. Don't let yourself stagnate and become isolated and alone. Bring others into your lives, those friends and family you trust.

· If you are out alone, and attacked, stand your ground and make lots of noise. Scream, holler, and even jump up and down! Do anything to get anyone in the vicinity to see or hear you. If the attacker only wants your purse, unless you have your life savings in there, give it up. It isn't worth the threat to your life, is it? In fact, you might want to get into the habit of streamlining the items you carry along with you. Leave the personal items at home, anything with personal home or account information. Carry only the necessities you need on any given outing. Don't make it easy for thieves. But don't be afraid to make a scene, either. Just use good judgement.

· Take part in a neighborhood watch program. Just make sure you know the neighbors who will be watching your own house! Get to know your neighbors. Cultivate new friends and learn to rely and trust one another. Watch out for each other, and don't be afraid to get involved. If you see a crime taking place next door, all you have to do is pick up your phone and call for help.

· Don't be afraid to speak out after an attack. Even if an attacker threatens to come back and do you bodily harm if you report it, chances are, the attacker will come back on his own, if he so chooses. It will make little difference if you speak out or not. Better not to be a victim multiple times. Let that first time be the last time. Call the police. Speak out in any neighborhood meeting or social club or gathering. Round up the other elderly folks in your area, and learn how to protect yourselves. There is strength in numbers. Let the criminal elements in your area know they won't be dealing with only one helpless elderly person. Let them know that a group of committed and determined people will be waiting and watching.

· When traveling, if you have car trouble on a deserted stretch of road, try to stay with your car. Sometimes that may not be possible, but it is usually advisable. If someone comes along to offer help, talk only through a slightly open window. Don't give anyone the chance to get into your car with you, or to get you out of your car. Ask the other driver if they would go to the nearest phone and call for help. This is where carrying your own cell phone can be a lifesaver.

· If someone tries to flag you down while driving, don't stop or pull off the road. Even if the other driver is waving at you, screaming that something is wrong with your tires or some other part of your car. There may, in fact, be something wrong. But you don't have to make yourself vulnerable to attack out on a deserted stretch of road. Try to drive until you spot a more populated and well-lit place to pull in and inspect your car.

· If you buy, or are given, a new television, stereo or other expensive item, don't simply throw empty boxes in the garbage or leave them out on the curb. This is an open invitation to all who pass by that this house now has something of value to offer a thief. If at all possible, shred the box so that any writing on the outside of the box will not be easily noticed. And, if you have other ways to use the boxes, recycle them into new storage containers for your home.

Take whatever precautions necessary to protect yourself and your home. Learn from the experts, and attend seminars or workshops on home security, self-defense, or lessons on phone scams. Do whatever you need to do to educate yourself on every way possible to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

And don't let your fears cause you to barricade yourself in your own home, living in fear and isolation. Get out and enjoy life. Just train yourself to be alert to your surroundings and to whoever may be in close range of you. Don't be an easy target. Look self-assured and confident. Let any potential criminals know that you are fully aware of their presence, and that you refuse to be anyone's victim. Let people around you know that you are in control of your own life, and that you will not give in to some human creature's need to control you, or take advantage of you.

Usually, if you take every possible precaution, chances are you will not become someone's victim. None of us can ever fully guarantee ourselves of this, but we can make it much harder for someone else to take advantage of us. Many times, just noticing people around us, looking and acting self-assured and confident, will be enough to make potential threats shy away. Most criminals want only easy targets. It is far too difficult to go after someone who might make a commotion or who might fight back, anything that draws attention to the thief and his activities.

Take back your life and live it to the fullest. Be self-confident and assured, and let the rest of the world know who you are.

© High Speed Ventures 2011