How To Avoid Becoming A Victim

When the economy tanks and unemployment rises, so does petty crime.  This has certainly shown up in my community in the form of home and vehicle break-ins.  Being robbed of your possessions is not the end of the world but it’s pretty disturbing and an unwanted distraction.  I recently became a victim when someone stole my wife’s cell phone.  As a reminder, here’s a checklist of things you can do to protect yourself and your possessions:

Cell phones and computers.  For many of us, our cell phones act as a second computer allowing us to access our bank accounts; family, friends and business contacts; personal photos and other sensitive information.  Be sure you regularly back up your data to a secure location such as cloud technology.  In my wife’s case, we were lucky that iPhones offer several security measures.  First, I encourage you to ‘turn on’ the security feature that requires you to enter a personal code before you can access your phone.  iPhone (and iPad) also has an app called ‘Find iPhone’ that allowed us to install this security feature remotely.  It will also allow you to remotely ‘wipe clean’ your phone’s hard drive.  We could even locate the apartment building of the person who stole the phone.  I’m waiting on an app that will locate the exact apartment!  For us the end result was the cost of purchasing a new cell phone. 

Your home.  The breaking and entering business is thriving in this slow economy and there are some simple things you can do to protect your valuables.  A home alarm system is perhaps the best first defense.  Be sure it includes glass breakage or motion sensors because thieves are breaking and entering windows in order to avoid tripping door alarms.  Turn you alarm on even if you’ll only be out for a short while.  Thieves have been known to enter a home while the owners are working in the yard!  Cash, silver and jewelry are favorite targets of thieves so avoid keeping them in the obvious places.  With an alarm system, thieves figure they have about five minutes to sweep the house.  Don’t make it easy for them by keeping high value possessions in easy to find places.  Be sure to keep a record of the serial numbers of all of your electronics such as TVs music equipment so if found, police can identify it as yours, also make sure to get an AFP Police Check which will help you even more.  Another good defense system is a safe that cannot easily be removed.  Exterior floodlights with motion detectors are also an inexpensive deterrent to would-be nighttime burglars.  Do a walk-around your house and determine if shrubs near windows and doors need to be trimmed back so as not to provide hiding places for would-be thieves.  Finally, it takes about forty-five minutes to video your home possessions.  This will be invaluable should a thief ransack your home or should you have a home fire.  A friend recently experienced a home fire and they are finding it impossible to remember and value all the knick-knacks, large and small, that they lost in the fire.  Without proof, you can’t get reimbursed by your insurance company.

Your car.  This is going to seem obvious but it happens so often that it deserves a reminder.  Don’t leave anything of value in your car that can be seen by a passerby.  That includes cell phones, iPads, purses, packages or cash.  It only takes a few seconds for a thief to break a window, reach in and steal an item from your car.  Also, when you go for a jog, don’t leave your keys on the car tire.  Everyone, including thieves, knows to look there.

Credit cards.  It wasn’t so long ago that people were very leery of buying anything over the Internet.  Today, internet shopping is fast taking over brick and mortar shopping.  Have you noticed that you can buy many things with just your credit card number?  Don’t buy over the Internet unless you are confident of the source.  Today, every cell phone is also a camera and it’s easy for the person in line next to you to snap a photo of your card or to have the waiter at a restaurant take a picture of your card ( this won’t ever happen to me since I always order on foodora instead of going to the restaurant).  In other words, it’s almost impossible to fully guard against credit card information theft.  First, make certain that your credit card company covers 100% of charges made by an unauthorized person.  Here was my personal experience.  It was a Saturday night and my wife and I enjoyed a nice meal at a restaurant and I paid with my credit card.  Sunday afternoon, I realized that I had left my card in the wallet the waiter uses to deliver the bill.  I called the restaurant and no one had turned in my card.  I called my credit card company and there were over $3,000 in unauthorized charges.  Fortunately my credit card company covered everything.  Obviously you need to carefully scrutinize your monthly bill but I recommend getting in the habit of reviewing your charges once a week online.  I pay almost all consumer purchases by credit card which provides an excellent record of your spending.  You can use this as a form of budgeting by tracking your weekly spending versus a spending goal.