- Get in Stride and Stay Safe – Safety Tips for Runners and Walkers
- Protecting Your Privacy
- Street Sense
- Use Common Sense to Spot a Con
Get in Stride and Stay Safe – Safety Tips for Runners and Walkers
Running and walking continue to be extremely popular sports. Each year more and more people take up running and walking because it is a quick, inexpensive way to stay fit. If you travel often, running or walking is an excellent way to maintain your exercise regimen. Also, many community centers and neighborhood and senior groups are starting walking clubs, consider joining one, it’s a great way to meet new people. Here are few pointers to stay safe as you hit the road.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Plan your outing. Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Tell friends and family of your favorite exercise routes.
Know where telephones are located along the course.
Wear an identification tag or carry a driver’s license. If you don’t have a place to carry your ID, write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside of your athletic shoe. Include any medical information.
Don’t wear jewelry or carry cash.
Wear reflective material.
ON THE ROAD
Tell a family member or friend where you are going and the time you expect to be back.
Stay alert at all times. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
Run or walk with a partner and/or a dog.
Don’t wear headsets. If you wear them you won’t hear an approaching car or attackers. Listen to your surroundings.
Consider carrying a cellular phone.
Exercise in familiar areas. Know which businesses or stores are open.
Vary your route.
Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Especially avoid poorly lighted areas at night.
Run clear of parked cars or bushes.
Ignore verbal harassment. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
Run against traffic so you can observe approaching automobiles.
Trust your intuition about a person or an area. React based on that intuition and avoid areas you feel unsure about.
Be careful if anyone in a car asks you for directions – if you answer, keep at least a full arm’s length from the car.
If you think you are being following, change direction and head for open stores, theaters, or a lighted house.
Have you door key ready before you reach your home.
Call police immediately if something happens to you or someone else, or you notice anyone out of the ordinary. It is also a good idea to check with police about any criminal activity in the are you plan to run.
Sometimes runners and walkers get lulled into a “zone” where they are so focused on their exercise they lose track of what’s going on around them. This state can make runners and walkers more vulnerable to attacks. Walk and run with confidence and purpose. If you get bored running without music, practice identifying characteristics of strangers and memorizing license tags to keep you from “zoning out.”
RUNNING AND WALKING IN THE EVENING OR EARLY MORNING
OK, so you missed the opportunity to exercise during the light of day, but you still want to get in a quick three miles before turning in for the night or before the sun rises. The best advice when exercising while it’s still dark is to get off the streets and head to the security of a well-lighted outdoor track or consider running on an indoor track or tread mill. If you are a walker, consider laps around an indoor shopping mall. If these options are not available consider these tips before heading out:
Make sure people can see you: Think about where you are going and how well lighted it may or may not be. Gong out at dusk or at night is dangerous without some type of reflective device on your clothing. Many athletic shoes have reflective qualities built in, but also consider a vest complete with reflective tape.
Watch the road: Wet or even patchy spots of ice many not be seen until it’s too late. The slick spots can lay in waiting and are considerably harder to see in the dark.
Keep alert. Dawn and dusk offer convenient shadows for muggers and other crooks.
AWAY FROM HOME
Many people have taken up running and walking so that they will be able to exercise when they are traveling. Remember just because you are away from home doesn’t mean you can let your guard down when you exercise. Before you venture out
Check with the hotel staff or concierge to find safe routes for exercise. If there is not an acceptable place to exercise outdoors, see if the hotel can arrange for you to go to a health club or gym.
Become familiar with your exercise course before you start. Get a map and study it.
Remember the street address of the hotel. Carry a card with your hotel address along with your personal ID.
Leave your room key with the front desk.
Follow your usual safety rules.
Protecting Your Privacy
E-mail, the Internet, automated teller machines (ATM), computer banking, long distance carriers, even credit cards make our lives more efficient. However, as our lives become more integrated with technology, keeping our private information confidential becomes more difficult. Electronic transactions can leave you vulnerable to fraud and other crimes. Following a few simple tips can help keep your code from being cracked.
A WORD ON PASSWORDS
Whether you are on the Internet or an online banking program, you are often required to use a password. The worst passwords to use are the ones that come to mind first – name, spouse’s name, maiden name, pets, children’s name, even street addresses, etc. The best passwords mix numbers with upper and lowercase letters. A password that is not found in the dictionary is even better. There ace programs that will try every word in the dictionary in an effort to crack your security.
Don’t be a “Joe” – someone who uses their name as their password.
The weakest link in a security system is the human element. The fewer people who have access to your codes and passwords the better. Avoid breaks in your security by
Changing your password regularly.
Memorizing your password. If you have several, set up a system for remembering the. If you do write down the password, keep it at home or hidden at work. Don’t write your password on a post-it note and stick it on your monitor or hard drive.
Setting up a special account or setting aside a different computer at work for temporary help and other unauthorized users.
If you have the option of letting your computer or a Web site remember a password for you, don’t use it. Anyone who uses your machine will have automatic access to information that is password protected.
Don’t send confidential, financial, or personal information on your e-mail system.
SHOPPING IN CYBERSPACE
Ordering merchandise from the Internet is the trend of the future. You can prevent problems before they occur by
Doing business with companies you know and trust. If you haven’t heard of the company before, research it or ask for a paper catalog before you decide to order electronically. Check with your state consumer protection agency on whether the company is licensed or registered. Fraudulent companies can appear and disappear very quickly in cyberspace.
Understanding the offer. Look carefully at the products or services the company is offering. Be sure your know what is being sold, the quality being specified, the total price, the delivery date, the return and cancellation policy, and all the terms of any guarantee.
Using a secure browser that will encrypt or scramble purchase information. If there is no encryption software, consider calling the company’s 800 number, faxing your order, or paying with a check.
Never giving a bank account or credit card number or personal information to anyone you don’t know or haven’t checked out. And don’t provide information that isn’t necessary to make a purchase. Even with partial information, con artists can make unauthorized charges to take money from your account. If you have an even choice between using your credit card and mailing cash, check, or money order, use a credit card. You can always dispute fraudulent credit card charges but you can’t get cash back.
Spam – unsolicited e-mail. Report it to your online or Internet service provider.
USING ATMS, LONG DISTANCE PHONE SERVICES, AND CREDIT CARDS
Protect Your Personal Identification Number (PIN)
The PIN is one method used by banks and phone companies to protect your account from unauthorized access. A PIN is a confidential code issued to the cardholder to permit access to that account. Your PIN should be memorized, secured and not given to anyone, not event family members or bank employees. The fewer people who have access to your PIN – the better.
Never write your PIN on ATM or long distance calling cards. Don’t write your PIN on a piece of paper and place it in your wallet. If your wallet and card are lost or stolen, someone will have everything they need to remove funds from your account, make unauthorized debit purchases, or run up your long distance phone bill.
PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY AND THE PRIVACY OF OTHERS
Be aware of others waiting behind you. Position yourself in front of the ATM keyboard or phone to prevent anyone from observing your PIN. Be courteous while waiting at an ATM or pay phone by keeping a polite distance from the person ahead of you. Allow the current user to finish before approaching the machine or phone.
PROTECT YOUR ATM CARDS
An ATM card should be treated as through it were cash. Avoid providing card and account information to anyone over the telephone.
When making a cash withdrawal at an ATM, immediately remove the cash as soon as the machine releases it. Put the cash in your pocket and wait until you are in a secure location before counting it. Never use an ATM in an isolated area or where people are loitering.
Be sure to take your receipt to record transactions and match them against monthly statements. Dishonest people can use your receipt to get your account number. Never leave the receipt at the site.
PROTECT YOUR CREDIT CARDS
Only give your credit card account number to make a purchase or reservation your initiated. And never give this information over a cellular phone.
Never give your credit card to someone else to use on your behalf.
Watch your credit card after giving it to store clerks to protect against extra imprints being made.
Destroy any carbons. Do not discard into the trash can at the purchase counter. Keep charge slips in a sale place.
Protect your purse or wallet, especially when traveling or in crowded situations.
Save all receipts, and compare them to your monthly statement. Report any discrepancies immediately!
Keep a master list in a secure place at ho me with all account numbers and phone numbers for reporting stolen or lost cards.
LOST OR STOLEN CARDS
Always report lost or stolen cards to the issuing company immediately. This limits any unauthorized use of your card and permits the company to begin the process of issuing a new card.
Crime can be random. But there are steps that limit your chances of becoming a victim. Being aware of the threat of crime – and alert to what you can do to prevent it – will go a long way toward making your electronic transactions safe and private.
BASIC STREET SENSE
Wherever you area—on the street, in an office building or shopping mall, driving, waiting for a bus or subway—stay alert and tuned into your surroundings.
Send the message that you’re calm, confident, and know where you’re going.
Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or place—or leave.
Know the neighborhoods where you live and work. Check out the locations of police and fire stations, public telephones, hospitals, restaurants, or stores that are open early and late.
ON FOOT—DAY AND NIGHT
Stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets. Avoid shortcuts through wooded area, parking lots, or alleys.
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. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket, not a back pocket.
Try to use automated teller machines in the daytime. Have your cards in hand and don’t approach the machine if you’re uneasy about people nearby. Use drive up ATMs or ones located inside stores.
Don’t wear shoes or clothing that restrict your movements.
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 toward an open store, restaurant, or lighted house. If you’re scared, yell for help.
Have to work late? Make sure there are others in the building, and ask someone—a colleague or security guard—to walk or drive you to your car or transit stop.
Keep your car in good running condition. Make sure there’s enough gas to get where you’re going and back.
Always roll up the windows and lock car doors when you drive and when you park, even if you’re coming right back. Check inside and outside the care before getting in.
Avoid parking in isolated areas. Be especially alert in lots and underground parking garages. Note the location of exits or emergency phones.
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.
Don’t pick up hitchhikers. Don’t hitchhike. Period.
Leave enough space to pull around the vehicle in front of you when you’re stopped at a light or stop sign. If anyone approaches your vehicle in a threatening manner, pull away.
Beware of the “bump and rob.” It works like this: A car rear-ends or bumps you in traffic. You get out to check the damage and driver or one of the passengers jumps into your car and drives off. Look around before you get out; make sure other cars are around. If you are uneasy, stay in the car and insist on moving to a busy place or police station.
People are losing their lives on the highway everyday because of “road rage.” A majority of drivers get angry when someone cuts them off or tailgates them. About 70 percent of drivers get angry at slow drivers. Violent incidents on the roads recorded by police have increased 51 percent over five years.
Don’t allow someone to draw you into a test of wills on the highway. If someone is tailgating you, pull into the slow lane and let them pass. Don’t tailgate others or cut them off in traffic. Don’t drive in the passing lane.
Don’t take traffic problems personally.
Avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver.
Don’t make obscene gestures. Use your horn sparingly, as a warning, not an outburst.
Reduce stress by allowing ample time for your trip and creating a relaxing environment in your car.
Driving is a cooperative activity. If you’re aggressive, you may find other drivers trying to slow you down or get in your way.
If you witness aggressive driving, stay out of the way and contact authorities when you can. Consider carrying a cellular phone in your car to contact police in the event of an encounter with an aggressive driver.
ON BUSES AND SUBWAYS
Use well-lighted, busy stops.
Stay alert! Don’t doze or daydream.
If someone harasses you, don’t be embarrassed. Loudly say, “Leave me alone!” If that doesn’t work, hit the emergency device.
Watch who gets off with you. If you feel uneasy, walk directly to a place where there are other people.
IF SOMEONE TRIES TO ROB YOU OR TAKE YOUR CAR
Don’t resist. Give up your property; don’t give up your life.
Report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent others from being victims.
Use Common Sense to Spot a Con
It’s not always easy to spot con artists. They’re smart, extremely persuasive, and aggressive. They invade your home through the telephone, computer, and the mail, advertise in well-known newspapers and magazines, and come to your door. They’re well-mannered, friendly, and helpful – at first.
Most people think they’re too smart to fall for a scam. But con artists rob all kinds of people – from investment counselors and doctors to teenagers and senior citizens – of billions of dollars every year. Cons, scams, and frauds disproportionately victimize seniors with false promises of miracle cures, financial security, and luxury prizes.
One easy rule to remember .. if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
YOU CAN PROTECT YOURSELF!
Never give a caller your credit card, phone card, Social Security number, or bank account number over the phone. It’s illegal for telemarketers to ask for these numbers to verify a prize or gift.
Beware of 900 numbers. Remember, if you call a 900 number to claim a “prize,” you end up paying for the call. Make sure you understand all the charges before making the call.
Take your time and shop around. Don’t let an aggressive con artist pressure you into making a decision. Demand information in writing by mail. Get a second opinion. Ask your family, friends, and neighbors what they think about certain offers.
Remember, you have the right, the ability, and the power to say no! If the caller on the other end of the phone makes you wary, be assertive and end the conversation. Cons know that the longer they keep you on the phone, the higher their chances of success. They often prey on the trusting, polite nature of many people or on their excitement over getting a supposed prize or bargain. By saying no and hanging up the phone, you can prevent a crime from taking place.
BE A WISE CONSUMER
Don’t buy health products or treatments that include: a promise for a quick and dramatic cure, testimonials, imprecise and nonmedical language, appeals to emotion instead of reason, or a single product that cures many ills.
Look closely at offers that come in the mail. Con artists often use official-looking forms and language and bold graphics to lure victims. If you receive items in the mail that you didn’t’’ order, you are under no obligation to pay for them. You are free to throw them out, return them, or keep them.
Beware of cheap home repair work that would otherwise be expensive. The con artists may just do part of the work, use shoddy materials and untrained workers, or simply take your deposit and never return. Never pay with cash. Never accept offers from drive-up workers who “just happen” to be in the neighborhood. If they’re reliable, they’ll come back after you check them out.
SOME TYPICAL CONS TARGETED AGAINST OLDER PEOPLE
Many cons choose to victimize older people. They devise complex offers that confuse their targets and eventually persuade them to take up these offers.
Don’t let this happen to you.
The phone rings and the caller tells you that you’ve won a new car! In order to claim the prize you need to mail a check to cover taxes and delivery of the car. Weeks later, the phone rings again. You learn that the original prize company has gone out of business. But the caller tells you not to worry because his/her company has purchased the assets of the defunct company. All you need to do is send another check to the company to cover the costs of the legal transaction and for immediate delivery. The check gets mailed. The prize never arrives.
A mail offer, newspaper, magazine or television ad catches your eye. It promises a quick cure for cancer, arthritis, memory loss, back pain, or other ailments. “It’s an absolute miracle,” testimony reads. “I feel a million times better.” You mail your check for a six-week supply of this miracle cure and you wind up with a jar of Vitamin C, placebos, or even worse, pills or tonics t hat have not been medically tested and could worsen your condition or react negatively with prescription medication you regularly take.
IF SOMEONE RIPS YOU OFF
Report con games to the police, your city or state consumer protection office, district attorney’s office, or a consumer advocacy group. Don’t be embarrassed. Some very, very astute people have been taken in by these pros!
Call the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST. Visit Fraud Watch on the Web at www.fraud.org for current fraud alerts.
Reporting is vital. Very few frauds are reported, which leaves the con artists free to rob other people of their money – and their trust.