Older people and their
families worry about crime, and with good reason. Though the elderly are
less likely to be victims of crime than teenagers and young adults, the
number of crimes against older people is hard to ignore. Each year, about
two million older people become crime victims.
The elderly are targets
for robbery, personal and car theft, and burglary. Older people are more
likely than younger victims to face attackers who are strangers. They
are more often attacked at or near their homes. Chances are that an older
victim may be more seriously hurt than a younger person.
It isnít only strangers
who hurt older people. Sometimes, family members, friends, or caretakers
may physically, mentally, or financially abuse older people through neglect,
violence, or by stealing money or property.
Even though there
are risks, do not let a fear of crime stop you from enjoying life. There
are things you can do to be safer. Be careful and be aware of what goes
on around you.
You can fight crime.
The best thing you can do at home is to lock your doors and windows.
You can also protect yourself at home in other ways:
- Always try to see
whoís there before opening your door. Look through a peephole
or a safe window. Ask any stranger to tell you his or her name and to
show proof that he or she is from the identified company or group. Remember,
it is okay to keep the door locked if you are uneasy.
- Make sure that
locks, doors, and windows are strong and cannot be broken easily. A
good alarm system can help. Many police departments will send an officer
to your home to suggest changes that could improve your security.
- Mark valuable property
by engraving an identification number on it, such as your driverís license
number. Make a list of expensive items such as jewelry or silver. Take
a picture of the valuable items and store the details in a safe place
like a bank safety deposit box.
On the street,
stay alert at all times, even in your own neighborhood and at your own
door. Walk with a friend. Try to stay away from places where crimes happen,
such as dark parking lots or alleys. You can also:
- Have monthly pension
or Social Security checks sent direct-deposit, right to the bank. If
you visit the bank often, vary the time of day you go.
- Donít carry a lot
of cash. Try not to carry a purse. Put your money, credit cards, or
wallet in an inside pocket. If you are stopped by a robber, hand over
any cash you have.
- Donít dress in
a flashy way. Leave good jewelry, furs, and other valuables in a safe
place to avoid tempting would-be robbers.
Money and property
crimes come in many forms and are a big problem. Older people may be victims
of consumer fraud such as con games or insurance scams. Even family members
or friends can sometimes steal an older personís money or property. Trust
what you feel. Protect yourself:
- Donít take money
from your bank account if a stranger tells you to. In one common scam
a thief may pretend to be a bank employee and ask you to take out money
to "test" a bank teller. Banks do not check out their employees
- Stay away from
deals that are "too good to be true." Beware of deals that
ask for a lot of money up front and promise you sure success. Check
with your local Better Business Bureau.
- Donít give your
credit card or bank account number over the phone to people who have
called you to sell a product or ask for a contribution.
- Donít be taken
in by quick fixes or miracle cures for health problems. People who are
not trained or licensed may try to sell you miracle "cures"
for cancer, baldness, arthritis, or other problems. Ask your doctor
before you buy. Be sure to go to licensed professionals.
Neglect or mistreatment
of older people is called elder abuse. It can happen anywhere,
at home by family or friends, or in a nursing home by other caregivers.
Physical, financial, or emotional abuse by family or friends is very hard
to deal with. There is help for people who are being abused. Most states
and many local governments have Adult Protective Services programs. Check
the phone book or call directory assistance. You can also talk to your
clergy, a lawyer, or doctor. Your local Area Agency on Aging may help.
The Eldercare Locator (1-800-677-1116) can direct you to a local agency.
You can help your
friends and neighbors by reporting crime when it happens. Police say that
more than half of all crimes go unreported. If you donít report a crime,
because of embarrassment or fear, the criminals stay on the streets.
If you are the victim
of a crime, there is help. Contact the National Organization for Victim
Assistance (NOVA), 1757 Park Rd., NW, Washington, D.C. 20010. NOVAís 24
hour hotline is 1-800-TRY-NOVA.
of Retired Persons (AARP)
Criminal Justice Services
601 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20049
Council of Better
4200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22209
Ask for the pamphlet called "Tips on Elderly Consumer Problems"
and other publications.
United Seniors Health
1331 H Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20045-4706
Publications are available on a variety of health-related consumer issues.