Archive for the ‘Safety Tips’ Category

PostHeaderIcon A Burglar’s Helper: Yes, You!

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Sure, your brand new TV was expensive. So was your kid’s Xbox and your husband’s collection of solid gold and diamond-studded Three Stooges bobble-heads. I know, you locked all your doors and every window latch was secured before you and your family drove down to Sally’s Slippery Seal Sanctuary to see the animals perform their rendition of Flipper, The Musical.

Yes, it does seem as if the crooks knew exactly what they wanted and where it was.

How could you prevent a future burglary?

Well…

First of all, and this is just an FYI in case one of your writer friends asks, when someone breaks into your home and then steals something that’s a burglary, not a robbery.

Robbery occurs when a crook uses physical force, threat, or intimidation to steal someone’s property. If the robber uses a weapon the crime becomes armed robbery, or aggravated robbery, depending on local law. There is always a victim present during a robbery.

For example, you are walking down the street and a guy brandishes a handgun and demands your money. That’s robbery.

Burglary is an unlawful entry into any building with the intent to commit a crime. Typically, there is no one inside the building when a burglary occurs. No physical breaking and entering is required to commit a burglary. A simple trespass through an open door or window, and the theft of an item or items, is all that’s necessary to meet the requirements to be charged with burglary.

For example, as in what happened at your house tonight, you are out for the night. That was a burglary.

In fact, had you been are at home asleep in your bed when the suspect broke in and took your things, it’s a burglary because you weren’t actually threatened by anyone.

Okay, let’s run down my checklist to be sure you’re doing all you can to prevent future burglaries.

1. Burglars used YOUR ladder to get inside. Be sure to move it out of the yard and store it inside the garage, or maybe in the basement or storage building. Out of sight, out of mind.

2. When you’re finished moving the ladder take a few extra minutes to trim the bushes, shrubs, etc. around the house. You don’t want the overgrown nandina providing a hiding place for the bad guys.

3. Motion-detector lights are a great addition, but are not perfect, not by any means. Savvy burglars often test this tactic by getting close enough to activate the lighting and then hide, watching and waiting to see if the homeowner checks to see what made the lights switch on. No response to the sudden illumination can be a green light for the criminal to proceed.

4. I know you’re as proud as a peacock about that gorgeous mirror hanging in the foyer, and you should be. It’s really nice. However, the reflection seen from the window at front door is that of your security system panel, into your living room, and down the hallway. A quick peek through the glass and a burglar can see if your alarm system is activated, or not, how many people are in the living room, if any, and where the TV and other valuables are positioned in the room. Not to mention that it’s creepy to expose so much of your personal space.

5. Social media. Do I need to say anything about how foolish it is to post your whereabouts every second of the day? Announcing to the world that you and your family are on vacation for two weeks is not a good idea. Nor is it a good idea to post photos of every single room in your house. Doing so is like posting blueprints and an inventory list of your things.

Bad guys troll these sites to pick and choose where they want to go based on what YOU’VE told and shown them.

“Here’s my new 200 inch flat screen and, by the way, we’re going to be away for a week. I hope Killer, our guard dog enjoys his time at the kennel while we’re gone. The house will be totally vacant for a week. What fun we’re going to have! See you when we get back, in a week.”

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You are aware that geotagging features on cellphones, when activated, contain the latitude and longitude of exactly where a phone was when photos were taken, right? That means, for example, your kid takes a selfie inside her bedroom and then posts it to Facebook. The location of that bedroom/house and your precious DAUGHTER is now online and available to every pervert in the world.

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6. Advertising sale items on online sites is popular, but you should not invite “buyers” to your home. Doing so is practically an open invitation for burglars to check out you and your things, or even worse. For example, the man who advertised a motorcycle on the popular site, Craigslist. When a potential buyer called and expressed interest in the bike, the owner invited the caller to come over and have a look. In short, the buyer showed up, shot and killed the owner, and then stole the motorcycle. How safe do you think the family and neighbors felt in the days, weeks, and months afterward?

Have buyers meet you in public places, such as the parking lot of your local police department.

7. Remember the day you bought that big TV, and when you removed it from the carton you placed the box at the curb for recycle pick-up? Well, you just told everyone who passes by, including burglars cruising neighborhoods, that you’re the proud owner of a brand new, giant TV that’s cost more than the cars driven by many people. Shred the cardboard. Smash the carton. Do whatever it takes to break it down in a way that makes it impossible to know what was once inside.

8. Yes, you do live in the safest neighborhood in the city. But that’s no reason to not lock your doors and windows. Someday it could happen to you…

 

PostHeaderIcon Tips to Avoid Scams

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Saving money these days is often far easier said than done. So when we do manage to set aside a few pennies it’s extremely important to protect ourselves against the predators who’d like nothing better than to get their sticky fingers on the contents of our piggy banks. Here are a few tips from the National Sheriff’s Association to help us safeguard against scammers and thieves.

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Identity theft is such a big problem during tax season because it’s when people gather all of their sensitive information into one place, making it easiest for criminals to steal information and tax refunds.

Some ways identity theft criminals can find your personal information are:

  • From their friends or acquaintances
  • By posing through a phone call or an email as someone who needs your information
  • By looking through your trash for personal information
  • By accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site or via a public Wi-Fi service

To avoid giving your personal information to identity theft criminals, follow the Indiana Department of Revenue’s four identity protection tips:

  1. Don’t share your Social Security number (SSN) unless you have to. And never give it to a person when you did not make the initial contact.
  2. Don’t leave your W-2s lying around. This gives visitors going in and out of your home access to them. Instead, keep your tax documents in a safe, locked box.
  3. After you electronically file your tax return, save the file to a CD, USB drive, or external drive and then delete the return from your computer. Store the device in a safe, locked place. This ensures hackers can’t steal your information
  4. File your taxes electronically. It is significantly more secure than paper filing. Individual taxpayers may qualify to file their taxes online for free at www.freefile.dor.in.gov.

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Tips to Avoid Email Scams:

Don’t believe what you see. Scammers easily duplicate a real business’ logo and/or email address.

Place your mouse over hyper-linked text and the true destination will appear.

Do not click on links or open the files in emails from people you don’t know.

Beware of pop-ups. Some pop-ups are designed to look like they’ve originated from your computer. If you see one that warns of a problem that needs to be fixed with an extreme level of urgency, it may be a scam.

Watch for poor grammar and spelling. Scam emails often are riddled with typos.

Ignore calls for immediate action. Scam emails try to get you to act before you think by creating a sense of urgency. Don’t fall for it.

 *Lee Lofland and The Writers’ Police Academy are proud supporters/members of the National Sheriff’s Association.

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