There are many ways criminals can capture key information about a senior citizen. They can include a “pre-approved” credit card mailing, a phony request to verify account information, a bill from a credit card company, a receipt with a name and card number, mail or bills from discarded trash or stolen purses/wallets.
REMEMBER: If someone makes you an offer that seems too good to be true, assume that it is too good to be true!!! You don’t have to be nice to salespeople. When on the phone, always feel free to simply say “No” and hang up. If the person offers you something that’s free then you shouldn’t have to pay to receive it. They shouldn’t have to pay handling charges or taxes. Be wary of anyone who tries to convince you not to speak with anyone else about your contact with them.
Assume that anyone who “must have an answer immediately” is trying to get you to act before you think. Insist on time to investigate the offer on your own. Keep track of everything you own that is a financial asset. Monitor credit accounts, bank statements, stock and pension fund statements, properties you own, and similar assets. Be sure you get all bills and expected checks on time. Call the company if a bill or check is late. Use a mailbox with a lock on it and deposit your outgoing mail in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox. Use a paper shredder to shred any material you are throwing out that identifies you (bank statements, extra copies of records, bills, etc…).
Make sure you get a copy of your credit report at least once a year to make sure that information is accurate and complete. Every person is entitled to a free copy of his or her credit report from each major credit bureau each year.
The three major credit bureaus are:
Trans Union: www.transunion.com
If you or someone you know has been the victim of Fraud or Identity Theft please visit our website link IDENTITY THEFT and review what actions you should take to protect yourself and help restore your name.
Finally some good news for seniors; they experience the lowest number of victimizations and rates of violent crime when compared with the general public. In fact, the violent victimization rate involving seniors has declined by over 22% since 2001. But keep in mind most violent crimes (except Robbery and Purse Snatching) take place between people known to each other.
Approximately 500,000 seniors are victims of domestic abuse each year but estimates indicate only 16% of the cases are reported. Family members are frequent offenders. Adult children are responsible for 47.3%; spouses 19.3%; and other family members 8.7%. This abuse can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment or financial or material exploitation.
Some signs of abuse/neglect could include:
-Open wounds, punctures, untreated injuries;
-Broken eyeglasses/frames or other signs of being restrained;
-Caregivers refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone;
-Unusual behavior, such as sucking, biting or rocking;
-Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities;
-Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing;
-Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections;
-Sudden changes in alertness;
-Bruising around the breasts or genitals;
-Sudden changes in financial situations;
-Bedsores, unattended medical needs;
-Poor hygiene, unusual weight loss;
-Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses.
Be mindful that just one of the above signs might not indicate abuse. Many of these are common.
There are several easy things that you as a senior citizen can do to help prevent crimes against you:
-Walk assertively, but not aggressively, in public areas;
-When going out somewhere, take a friend if possible;
-Only carry cash/credit cards that you know will be needed;
-Empty your wallets/purses beforehand of items you won’t need when shopping;
-Keep your purse closed and held snugly near your body;
-Don’t take short cuts through deserted or dark areas. You are safest in lighted area where there are other people around;
-When traveling out of town ask hotel management about areas of town that should be avoided;
-If you are confronted by a robber, hand over your money or valuables. They are not worth your life;
-Stay involved in your community and know your neighbors;
-Join or improve a Neighborhood Watch organization;
-Participate in National Night Out and consider hosting a block party so you can get to know your neighbors and the SPD officers that work in your district;
-Set up timed lights and have a trusted neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers while you are away;
-Make sure your house address and windows are visible from the street;
-Illuminate doorways and walkways. Use a motion detector on exterior lighting;
-Give an extra key to a trusted neighbor;
-Trim shrubs so they do not exceed 3 feet high and trees so they don’t extend lower than 6 feet from the ground. This gives at least 3 feet of visibility around your home;
-Ask SPD to place a frequent patrol on your home when you are leaving for an extended period of time;
-If you’re receiving maintenance services from a company ask for photo identification from the delivery or utility workers before letting them in;
-Write down license plates on vehicles they arrive in;
-Ask SPD to conduct a free security survey of your home;
-Consider installing an alarm;
-If someone is making you feel uneasy, trust your instincts and get away from them;
-Report crime and suspicious activities to SPD;
If you have been or are being the victim of abuse, exploitation, or neglect remember that you are not alone. Many people care and can help. Please tell SPD, or your doctor, or a friend/family member you trust, or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
If you suspect an elderly friend or family member is being abused there are several things you can do. Keep in touch with them and gently question any signs of physical, financial or emotional abuse that you observe. Don’t be surprised if they deny the abuse; remain in touch, concerned and observant. You never know when they’ll need a friend to confide in. You can start an educational campaign for older persons in your community. SPD often visits with retirement communities to address problems and keep that community updated with current crime trends against them, but we can always use your help or input to set up connections/meetings with someone who may be experiencing abuse.
Remember, you don’t need absolute proof to report abuse. You can contact SPD with concerns or questions and even file an online report with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services by calling (800) 252-5400 or using www.txabusehotline.org
Don’t let this information get you down. Sealy (and Texas in whole) is a great community for seniors. In fact, if you review the Texas laws you will notice special laws and penalties that help protect our seniors and children. Feel free to contact SPD with any questions or for more information.