By Deputy John Blenker and Community Services Officer
As people grow older, their chances of being victimized by crime increase dramatically. Experience has made them aware of possible burglary or physical attacks, but newer, more sophisticated crimes, such as frauds and scams have actually become even greater threats to seniors’ well-being.
I have handled several cases wherein a caller phoned a victim stating that they’d won the “Canadian Lottery.” The caller was able to bilk the victim out of thousands of dollars to supposedly collect the winnings. In one of these cases the criminal actually came to the victim’s house to collect the money.
How can Seniors protect themselves? Here are some suggestions:
Don’t be afraid to call 911 for help -- we are here to help you any time of day or night.
- Report any crime or attempted crime.
- Report any suspicious activity.
Be alert when out and about
- Go shopping or run your errands with friends or family, not alone.
- Carry your purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Place wallet inside coat or front pocket.
- Don’t carry credit cards you don’t need, your social security card or large amounts of cash.
- Keep car doors locked, when riding in or driving a car. Be particularly alert in parking lots and garages. Park near an entrance.
- If someone or something makes you uneasy, trust your instincts and leave.
Make Your Home Safe and Secure
- Install good locks on doors and windows and use them. Don’t hide keys in mailboxes and planters or under door mats. Instead, leave an extra set of keys with a neighbor or a friend.
- Ask for a photo identification from service or delivery people before letting then in the door. If you are the least bit doubtful, call the company to verify the caller’s identity.
- Be sure your street address number is large, clear of obstruction, and well lit so police and other emergency personnel can find your home quickly.
- Consider a home alarm system that provides emergency monitoring for burglary, fire and medical emergencies.
Watch out for Con Artists
- Don’t fall for anything that sounds too good to be true- a free vacation; sweepstakes prizes; cures for cancer and arthritis; a low risk, high yield investment scheme.
- Never give your credit card, phone card, social security or bank account number to anyone over the phone. It’s illegal for telemarketers to ask for these numbers to verify as prize or gift.
- Don’t let anyone rush you into signing anything-an insurance policy, a sales agreement, a contract to make repairs on your home. Read the document carefully and have someone you trust review it.
- Beware of individuals claiming to represent companies, consumer organizations, or government agencies that offer to recover lost money from fraudulent telemarketers for a fee.
- If you’re suspicious, check it out with the police, Better Business Bureau, a trusted family member or your local consumer protection office.
Get Involved in the Community
- Report any crime or suspicious activities to law enforcement.
- Join a neighborhood/farm watch group to look out for each other and help the Sheriff’s office.
- Work to improve your neighborhood. Volunteer as a citizen patroller, tutor children, mentor teens, or serve as an escort for individuals with disabilities.
Resources you can call on for information or help:
Adult & Aging Services -- The adult and aging Services Division of Sonoma County works with individuals and the community to ensure the safety and well- being of vulnerable adults. Staff provides protective and supportive social services as well as the community training and coordination. 707-565-7900 website: www.sonoma-county.org
Council on Aging – helps enhance the quality of life for Sonoma County’s older citizens by providing services that promote well-being and maintain independence. 707-525-0143 or 800-675-143. (John, correct this phone number. I inadvertently dropped a digit) website: www.councilonaging.com
Sonoma County 2-1-1 Community Resource Directory -- Sonoma County 2-1-1 is staffed by volunteers who provide the link between people who have needs with the services that can alleviate those needs. Call Specialists are available 24/7, every day of the year. Dial: 2-1-1 or view the website at www.211wc.org
If you have questions about keeping our older citizens safe in our community, feel free to contact your local law enforcement agency or the Sheriff’s Office.