Protecting Yourself From Crime

Most crimes are "crimes of opportunity". A criminal often targets the easiest home to enter, the easiest car to break into, or the easiest purse to snatch. One of the best ways to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of a more serious crime such as assault, sexual assault, or robbery, is to avoid dangerous situations. Most criminals want easy targets, so making it tough for them will reduce your risk. You can reduce your risk of becoming a crime victim by reducing the opportunity. Here are some ideas:

Personal Safety

Basic Street Sense

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Stay alert and aware of your surroundings.
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Send the message that you're calm, confident, and know where you're going.
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Trust your instincts.
Know the neighborhoods where you live and work.

On Foot - Day and Night

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Stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets.
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Avoid shortcuts through wooded areas, parking lots, or alleys.
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Don't flash large amounts of cash or other tempting targets like expensive jewelry or clothing.
Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps.
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Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket, not in a back pocket.
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Don't wear shoes or clothing that restrict your movements.
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Have your car or house key in hand before you reach the door.
If you think someone is following you, switch direction or cross the street. Walk towards an open store, restaurant, or lighted house. If you're scared, yell for help.

On Wheels

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Keep your car in good running condition.
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Always roll up the windows, lock car doors, and never leave valuables in plain view.
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Avoid parking in isolated areas. Be especially alert in lots and parking garages.
If you think someone is following you, don't head home. Drive to the nearest police or fire station, gas station, or other open business to get help.
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Don't pick up hitchhikers.
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Never leave your car running while unattended.

If Someone Tries to Rob You:

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Don't resist. Give up your property; don't give up your life.
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Report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent others from being victims.

Home Security

Check the Locks
Did you know that in almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves simply entered through unlocked doors or crawled through unlocked windows?

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Make sure every external door has a sturdy, well-installed, one inch throw, dead bolt lock. Key-in-the-knob locks alone are not enough.
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Sliding glass doors can offer easy access if they are not properly secured. You can secure them by installing commercially available locks or placing a broomstick or dowel in the inside track to jam the door.
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Give an extra key to a neighbor you trust.
When you move into a new house or apartment, re-key the locks.
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Keep the garage door closed and locked and always lock the connecting door to your home.
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Don't leave an extra key under a doormat.

Check the Doors
A lock on a flimsy door is about as effective as locking your car door but leaving the window down.

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All outside doors should be metal, metal clad or solid wood.
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If your doors don't fit tightly in their frames, install weather stripping around them.
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Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door. Door chains are easily broken and offer a false sense of security.

Check the Outside
Look at your house from the outside; make sure you know the following tips:

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Install outside lights and keep them on at night.
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Keep your yard clean - prune back shrubbery so it doesn't hide doors or windows.
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Clearly display your house number so police and other emergency vehicles can find your home quickly.
Create the illusion that you're home by setting some timers that will turn your lights on and off in different areas of your house throughout the evening.
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Don't leave ladders or tools outside that a burglar could use to gain entry.

There's More You Can Do

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Join a Neighborhood Watch group. If one doesn't exist, you can start one with help from local law enforcement.
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Never leave a message on your answering machine that indicates you may be away from home. Rather than saying "I'm not home right now," say, "I'm not available right now."
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Work with neighbors and local government to organize community clean-ups. The cleaner your neighborhood, the less attractive it is to criminals.
Be suspicious of strangers who appear out of place or who ask about your schedule or plans.
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Be aware of telephone calls with no apparent purpose and hang-up calls. This can be a ploy used by criminals to identify target homes.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is becoming one of the fastest growing crimes. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received over 680,000 complaints of identity theft. Despite your best efforts to manage your personal information, skilled identity thieves may still gain access to your personal data. Fort Collins police provides tips to protect your identity and information on what to do if you become a victim of identity theft.

Tips to Protect your Identity

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Never give your credit card number or other personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with. Personal information includes: social security number, driver license number, account number(s), date of birth, place of birth, home address, mother's maiden name or passwords.
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When you order new checks, consider removing extra information such as your social security number, driver license number, middle name and telephone number.
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Check your credit history and bank records frequently. Look for signs of inaccurate or suspicious activity.
Keep detailed and accurate records of your banking, check writing, credit card and ATM usage.
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Ensure that carbons on credit card receipts are destroyed.
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Shred or completely destroy any items with personal information or identifiers, such as address, date of birth, social security number, driver license or identification card number and account number(s), rather than discarding them in the trash.
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Do not carry extra credit cards, your social security card, birth certificate or passport in your wallet or purse, except when needed.
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Cancel your cellular phone account or long distance calling card if it has been stolen or you discover fraudulent charges in your bills.

What to do if you have become a victim of Identity Theft!

Notify the police: Contact your local police department to file a criminal report and provide specific information on what occurred such as bad checks, credit card abuse, name, etc. Keep a copy of the police report.

Contact the Driver License Office: Once you have filed a police report, contact your local drivers license office and ask for assistance in determining the best course for your situation.

Notify Creditors: If unauthorized charges have been made on your credit card accounts, cancel those cards and request replacement cards with new account numbers. Cancel all unauthorized credit cards and accounts and report fraudulent activity to the credit card issuers and credit reporting agencies.

Notify Your Bank: Ask them to flag your account and contact your regarding any unusual activity. Place a stop payment order on stolen checks. Close any unauthorized bank accounts.

Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) Cards: If your ATM card was stolen, contact the issuing institution and request a new card, account number, and password. Be sure to change your old password.

Report the theft to one of the three major credit reporting agencies:
Request that a fraud alert and a victim's statement be placed in your file. Also, request a FREE copy of your credit report to determine if any accounts were opened without your consent and request the agency remove inquiries and/or fraudulent accounts stemming from theft. Since these agencies share information, you need only notify one.

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Equifax: To request a credit report:
1-800-685-1111, to report fraud 1-800-525-6285 or write to P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374 or website: www.equifax.com
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Experian: To request a credit report or
report fraud: 1-888-397-3742 or write to P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013 or website: www.experian.com
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Trans Union: To request a credit report:
1-800-888-4213. To report fraud: 1-800-680-7289; write to P.O. Box 6790,
Fullerton, CA 92634; or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Contact the Social Security Administration: Report unauthorized use of your personal information to SSA Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission: The FTC is the one place to report ID theft to the federal government. To file an identity theft complaint or request information call: 877-438-4338, write FTC, Identity Theft Clearing House, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20580, or www.consumer.gov/idtheft/

Be sure to ask for the free brochure: ID Theft, When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name.

Notify the U.S. Passport Agency: Notify the U.S. Passport Agency to be on alert for anyone fraudulently applying for a new passport in your name: U.S. Passport Agency, 1111 19th Street, N.W., Washington D.C. 20522-1705, 202-647-0518 or at: www.travel.state.gov/passport

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON IDENTITY THEFT, go to http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/idthft_ncpw.htm