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Crime

studio profile image of an elderly woman wearing glasses, chin resting in her hand, gazing sadly to the distance

It's normal to fear being a victim of crime. That fear often increases with age. Teenagers and young adults are most likely to be victims. But older adults may be seen as easy targets for crimes such as robbery, purse-snatching, pick-pocketing, or car theft. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), older adults are also frequent targets for fraud. Common types include health care, home repair, and telemarketing fraud. There is no guaranteed way to avoid becoming a crime victim. But you can take steps to make it less likely.

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When you're out and about

Some tips to help keep you safe when you're out and about:

  • Stay alert! Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Know where you are going and walk confidently.
  • Stay away from unsafe places like dark parking lots and alleys.
  • Park in well-lit areas and always lock your car and take your keys.
  • Lock your car doors as soon as you get in.
  • Don't open the door or roll down the window for strangers.
  • Keep cash and valuables out of sight.
  • Carry your purse close to your body.
  • Don't resist a robbery. No amount of money is worth your life.

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Home safety

Home should be the place where you feel the most safe. Rest easier with these safety tips for your house or apartment:

  • Know your neighbors — people who know each other look out for each other.
  • Always lock your door. It's best to have a deadbolt lock and strong door.
  • Close and lock your windows.
  • Make sure your windows won't break easily.
  • Don't open the door for people you don't know. If someone claims to be a maintenance worker, cable installer, or even a police officer, ask for ID and a number to call and confirm before you open the door.
  • Make sure the walkways and parking areas you use are well-lit.

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Fraud

Older adults are often targeted for fraud. There are many scam artists out there looking to take all your money. Don't let them. A few tips:

  • Don't give out any personal information — especially your Social Security number, credit card information, or bank account numbers — on the phone unless you made the call.
  • Don't respond to emails that ask you to verify account numbers and passwords. This is called "phishing" and is a way for thieves to steal your information. If you think there's a problem with a credit card or bank account, contact the company directly, either by phone or by going to directly to the website. Don't click on any link in a suspicious email.
  • Learn about computer security and how to safely use the Internet at http://www.onguardonline.gov.

To learn more about fraud targeted at older adults, read Fraud Target: Senior Citizens from the FBI.

And finally, in all instances, trust your instincts! If you feel uncomfortable or threatened, get out of the situation. Don't be afraid to be rude. You have the right to walk away, hang up, or close the door on anyone who makes your uncomfortable.

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More information on Crime

Explore other publications and websites

  • Age Page: Beware of Health Scams - This publication covers issues of fraudulent health care schemes and treatments, how older people may fall prey to "quacks," and how to protect yourself from health scams.
  • Age Page: Crime and Older People - This fact sheet discusses fraud, identity theft, and elder abuse and explains what you can do to protect yourself from these crimes.

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Content last updated: August 12, 2010.

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