It’s been said that crooks are ingenious in the ways that they exploit opportunities. The real problem is that many people provide those opportunities on a regular basis without knowing. The trick is to be less cavalier, less predictable, more thoughtful and ever vigilant to thwart those who would do you financial harm. It is not normal for you to think like a crook so here are several areas to consider as ways to safeguard yourself.
In this day and age with Smartphones, there is a ton of personal information on a phone. Losing one’s Smartphone could mean hours and hours of time trying to reconstruct contacts, bookmarks, passwords, documents, etc. But a lost or stolen cell phone is also an opportunity in the making for an unscrupulous person.
Case in point, a woman had had her purse stolen and the thief used her cell phone to text the woman’s husband (conveniently listed in contacts as “Hubby”) to ask for the bank account PIN, which she seemed to have forgotten. Of course, “Hubby” obliged and texted back with the PIN and the result was a newly cleaned out bank account. The take away here: Never disclose your relationship in your contact list, i.e. home, mom, hubby, my better half, etc. The fix is to:
- Tell your family and friends that anytime a text comes in (from you or anyone) which requests sensitive information (like a PIN, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, etc.) that they should CALL back, not text back, to confirm the identity of the sender.
- Do not keep sensitive information such as PIN numbers, account passwords or social security numbers in your purse or wallet or on your Smartphone.
Car Registration and Insurance Papers
If you’ve ever been to any long-term parking at the airport you have surely noticed the many prominent signs, which caution you to take all valuables with you. Have you thought about your vehicle’s pertinent papers? I would bet that you have left your vehicle registration and insurance card in the glove box. Well, there’s an opportunity to be exploited! Not only are you parked in the long-term lot but you’ve provided some opportunistic crook with your home address. So they know that you are not home for some period of time, they know where you live and you probably left the garage remote on the visor so that they can just let themselves in.
If you have to leave your car unattended for any reason, not just long-term parking but even daily parking, hotel parking, mall parking, valet parking – or even if it’s only unattended for a few minutes:
- Take your registration and insurance papers with you.
- When taking advantage of parking that requires you to leave your vehicle key, leave only your vehicle key (not your house key!), and ensure that your trunk is empty if it doesn’t have a separate key.
Global Positioning System (GPS) Tips
Many folks have a GPS; it’s either a little device attached to the dashboard or it’s built into your car. While it is an awesome piece of engineering that helps you get from one destination to another it is a great opportunity for crooks.
Most people identify their favorite destinations – home, office, gym, supermarket, etc. That makes it a lot easier for crooks, especially if they’re scouting around for opportunities. Yes, that very handy GPS, which you left prominently displayed in your car’s window showed those crooks the way home – to your now empty home.
A couple of points here:
- Hide your GPS when you’re parked for any length of time.
- Don’t list your “home” on it, but a nearby public spot instead, say the local police station or convenience store… anything but “home.”
Bags, Pocketbooks and Purses
Women are often guilty of tossing their bag into the grocery cart’s “child seat” when shopping. It is so easy to be distracted that someone can walk right past and snatch your purse while you’re looking elsewhere.
That happened to one woman, who reported the theft to store personnel. After she arrived home, “store security” called to advise that they found her purse, except for the cash. She promptly left her house to retrieve it. Except “store security” didn’t call her, the crooks did, from right outside her home, and when she left to get her purse they moved right in and robbed her blind. A double whammy!
The take away here is to secure your purse.
- Carry it on your person or use the seat belt to lock it into the child seat. If that’s not an option, at the very least put your purse in the main part of the shopping cart, way down at the bottom where someone would have to stop and reach in to get it.
- Do not toss your purse into the passenger seat of your car. Whether stopping for gas or driving around with the windows opened, an unattended purse on the front seat just screams, “steal me!” Secure the bag by buckling the seatbelt through the straps or better yet, toss it into the back seat on the floor.
The bottom line in all of this is you have to learn to make it harder for crooks to succeed. All they need is an opportunity; it’s your job not to give them one.