Home Safety Tips
When you are home alone, nothing adds stress like an unexpected knock on the door. Who could it be? What do they want? To help minimize risk when a stranger comes calling, remember a few key tips:
Always keep your exterior doors locked, even when you are home, and make sure they have deadbolt locks. A chain on a sliding track is also good in case you need to open your door a little to sign for a package.
Install a peephole in your front door so you can see who’s knocking before opening your door.
Ask for identification from anyone you do not know, including package delivery services or utility companies, before opening your door. Don’t be embarrassed. If they are legitimate, they will not mind. If you still have doubts, call the company to confirm their identity.
Almost everyone has had a stranger ask to use his phone. Never hand the phone out to a stranger. Instead, place the call for him. It will keep him outdoors and you will know for sure that the call is local.
When you run errands and are expecting someone, never leave notes on your front door telling the world where you are, and when you will return. Instead, phone the person to discuss your plans.
Watch where you hide your keys. Many people hide keys outside in the event they lock themselves out of the house. Remember, however, that everyone will look under the mat, above the doorjamb, and in nearby flowerpots first. If you must hide your keys outdoors, there are some clever devices for that purpose. One looks like an ordinary garden rock, but with a trap door underneath, for instance.
Seniors are often the target of elaborate phone scams whereby they are asked to give out sensitive personal information or pay for goods, services, investments or "prizes." Some calls coming from inside prisons have led to financial loss. In other cases, callers have persuaded the answerer that they were the phone company, and that they would need to have the answerer push a "code" into their touchtone phone to test the lines. The code ended up inadvertently giving the caller long distance privileges on the victim’s bill. A good rule of thumb is: unless YOU placed the call to a reputable business, don’t do business over the phone. In fact, don’t let a telephone solicitor get past, "And how are you today?" Simply say, "No, thank you," and hang up. In addition, screening your calls with an answering machine is a great way to weed out these annoyances.
If you are going to be away from home overnight, invest in an inexpensive timer for your lights, television and radio. These devices are very easy to use (no computerized confusion, just a user-friendly dial) and can make your home appear lived in. Also, cancel your newspaper while you’re away or give it to a neighbor. Stop your mail at the post office and pick it up when you return. If you put your trash can out before you leave, make sure a neighbor can return it to its usual location after pickup. Nothing says, "We’re gone," like a trash can at the curb three days after pickup.
Remember, the thing a criminal most counts on with seniors is that they will be trusting and naïve. By making yourself aware and reminding yourself of easy safety tips, you can make sure that you’re not part of his stereotype.