The Maryland State Police and the American Association of Retired Persons say the best way to fight crimes against seniors is to prevent them.
Some of their tips are: * Don't carry a purse. Seniors are likely targets of purse snatchers because they aren't strong enough to hurt the mugger.
* Don't carry more cash, checks or credit cards than you need or keep large amounts of cash at home.
* Arrange for direct deposit of payroll, retirement or Social Security checks into your bank account. This also prevents someone stealing the check from your mailbox.
* Never open the door to a stranger. If the person claims to be from the gas company or other utility, ask for photo identification. If they have none, make them wait outside while you call the utility and the police.
* Install good locks on the door, and if there is a window within reach of the knob, buy a lock that needs a key from the inside and outside.
Always leave the key in the lock when you're home, however, in case you need to get out quickly, as in the event of a fire.
* Reinforce locks with heavier screws, so that screws go through more than one piece of wood.
* Trim shrubbery so burglars can't hide behind it.
* Drill diagonal holes through the bottom of doors and windows, and slip in a large nail so they can't be opened from the outside. If you need to get out in a hurry, just pull out the nail.
* Install lights around the front and back of the house to deter burglars. Put wire cages around the light bulbs so they can't be broken or unscrewed by a prowler.
* Sliding doors need more than a broom handle wedged between them: buy a special lock or bar and fill the space between the door and frame with wood so the door can't be lifted out.
* Be suspicious of anyone who calls or comes to your door to sell you something, get you to invest in something, or says you won a big prize.
* Don't fall for carnival barkers with illegal sideline gambling operations.
* Never give your credit card number over the phone to someone who calls you.
* Ask home-improvement salespeople for their license numbers, and check the number with the Maryland Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Also ask to speak with people who have hired the person or firm, and go look at the job.
* Start a neighborhood watch group.