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Seniors and Crime Prevention

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  1. Seniors and Crime Prevention National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  2. Objectives • Current data and future projections • Demographics and fear of crime • Financial crimes • Property crimes • Violent crimes • Elder abuse • Prevention tips for seniors National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  3. Seniors Today • Seniors are a large demographic group. • An estimated 35 million Americans are 65 years old or older. • This group constitutes 13 percent of the U.S. population. • Almost one in ten Americans is 65 or older. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  4. Older Americans • Persons 85 years of age or older • An estimated 4 million Americans fall into this age group. • This group accounts for 2 percent of the U.S. population. • Persons 85 years of age and older are the fastest-growing segment of seniors. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  5. More People Getting Older • Americans 65 and older are a fast-growing demographic group. • In 2011, the baby boom generation will begin to turn 65. • By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  6. More Foreign-born Seniors • Immigration and differences in fertility rates have increased the number of minorities, including seniors. • Of the 3.1 million foreign-born elderly in the United States in 2000, 35 percent lived in the West. 10 percent lived in the Midwest. 28 percent lived in the Northeast. 27 percent lived in the South. Source: U.S. Census, The Older Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2000 National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  7. More Seniors are Non-English Language Dominant. • Older populations are more diverse linguistically; a large percentage are non-native English speakers. Source: U.S. Census, The Older Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2000 National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  8. Ethnic and Racial Distribution of Older Americans National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  9. Predictions for Seniors • Seniors will live longer. Eventual declines in cognitive and physical functions could make them more vulnerable to victimization. • Seniors may become less in touch with innovations and less aware of their vulnerabilities. • Services will require more flexibility and adaptation. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  10. Fear of Crime • Two-thirds of seniors believe they will inevitably be victims. • Many seniors alter their lifestyles because they fear being victimized. • Almost half of those age 75 or older are afraid to leave their homes after dark. • Twenty percent of seniors say fear of crime has contributed to a sense of loneliness and isolation. Source: Age Concern (www.ace.org.uk) National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  11. Fear of Crime (cont.) • Older Americans demonstrate a higher rate of fear of crime than any other age group despite having the lowest victimization rates. • Knowledge of their vulnerabilities and reduced self-defense capacities makes them more cautious. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  12. Fear of Crime (cont.) Other reasons why older Americans fear crime… • Potential recovery from physical or financial injury is often limited. • Loss of money or physical faculties has a more severe effect than on other age groups. • They may fear the loss of their independence (this may be why many do not report victimization). • Media frequently portray the elderly as victims or, at least, as being vulnerable. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  13. Most Common Types of CrimesAgainst Seniors 1. Financial crimes 2. Property crimes 3. Violent crimes 4. Elder abuse National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  14. Financial Crimes Financial crimes include • Fraud • Scams • Identity theft • Healthcare fraud National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  15. Financial Crimes (cont.) • These criminals generally seek to take cash, credit, credit rating, or other assets by deception. • These are very capable criminals. Many have excellent people skills and/or talent with computers and similar electronic gear. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  16. Financial Crimes (cont.) • Robbery involves a confrontation and the threat or use of force, but financial crimes often involve people who are pleasant and seemingly helpful. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  17. Why Are Seniors Targets of Financial Crimes? ■ Seniors have accumulated resources. Many own their homes and have insurance, pension plans, savings, stocks and bonds, and similar assets that may not always be closely monitored. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  18. Why Are Seniors Targets of Financial Crimes? (cont.) Vulnerabilities based on lifestyle: • Many are accessible by telephone and mail, have time to listen, are too polite to hang up, keep assets readily available, have limited experience with investments, can no longer perform home repairs, and are deeply concerned with maintaining finances to last them through their lives. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  19. Why Are Seniors Targets of Financial Crimes? (cont.) • Many are isolated by disability, fear of violence in the community, lack of peer friendships, or lack of transportation. • Many are trusting or complacent or forgetful of details and may be embarrassed to admit they were victims. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  20. Fraud • Fraud involves deceit in the commission of a financial crime. • Those who commit fraud offer prizes, deals, opportunities, bargains, and the like. • They may advertise with a teaser (e.g., “Earn money working at home!”) or with a phone call announcing a “golden opportunity to invest.” Or they may develop personal relationships with, and then prey on, individuals they meet in various ways. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  21. Fraud (cont.) Fraud can take many forms. • Examples include home repairs, auto repairs, new carpet or appliances at bargain rates, work-at-home schemes, weight loss and similar health-related programs, stock and related investments, overseas investments, overseas lottery prizes, amazing deals on commodities trades, and more. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  22. Fraud (cont.) • Older people are major targets – they make up about 12 percent of the population but 37 percent of telemarketing victims, according to one study. A telemarketing fraud artist told investigators, “It is an article of faith in this business to go after the old folks.” National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  23. Stealth • The person takes or takes control of an asset without the victim’s knowledge or consent. • Stealth-based financial crimes include identity theft, pretext theft, computer hacking, and similar criminal activity. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  24. Stealth (cont.) • Stealth-based crimes are usually difficult to detect unless the victim closely monitors small personal property and financial status and bills. • Stealth-based crimes may go unreported because the victim may have no idea when the theft occurred or even whether it did, in fact, occur. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  25. Identity Theft A growing threat: More than 10 million Americans a year are victims of this crime although seniors are currently a small percentage of that number. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  26. How Identity Theft Begins • A crook captures key information about an individual in many ways: • A “pre-approved” credit card mailing • A reply to a phony request to verify account information • A bill from a credit card company • A receipt with a name and credit card number • A list that a computer hacker has stolen and sold • Mail or bills from discarded trash • Stolen wallets or purses National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  27. Identity Theft Continues The criminal uses information to make a purchase or obtain further information about a person’s identity, such as the following: • Social Security number • Bank account numbers • Credit card numbers • Driver’s license number National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  28. Identity Theft Continues • The criminal then exploits the identity by • Piling up charges on accounts • Taking money from bank accounts • Opening new accounts • Applying for a loan or mortgage • Declaring bankruptcy National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  29. Discovering the Theft • Eventually the exploitation is discovered when the victim • Receives a bank statement with unknown transactions • Finds newly created credit card accounts • Tries to apply for a loan and is denied • Is arrested for a crime committed by the thief using the stolen identity National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  30. Reporting and Restoring the Identity • The victim reports the identity theft to the police and to the major credit bureaus. • The victim asks the credit bureaus to note the crime on his or her credit reports. • Depending on the state, the victim may need to consult with a local victims’ assistance agency or an attorney for specific steps that may be helpful or necessary. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  31. Reporting and Restoring the Identity (cont.) • The victim files a complaint through the Federal Trade Commission registry at www.ftc.gov. • The victim completes an affidavit of identity theft, available at www.ftc.gov’s identity theft section. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  32. Preventing Financial Crimes If someone makes an offer that seems too good to be true, assume that it is too good to be true! National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  33. Preventing Financial Crimes (cont.) • Demand details in writing via U.S. mail and save the envelope, which permits the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to help investigate any criminal acts. • Assume that anyone who “must have an answer immediately” is trying to get you to act before you think. Insist on time to investigate the offer on your own. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  34. Preventing Financial Crimes (cont.) • Keep track of everything you own that is a financial asset. • Monitor credit accounts, bank statements, stock and pension fund statements, properties you own, and similar assets. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  35. Preventing Financial Crimes (cont.) • Make sure you get all bills and expected checks on time. • Criminals have been known to steal mail to steal your identity. Call the company if a bill or check is late. If it was mailed on time, call your post office and report postal theft. • Use a mailbox with a lock on it. Deposit your outgoing mail in a USPS mailbox. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  36. Preventing Financial Crime (cont.) Don’t risk it, shred it. • Shred any material that you are throwing out that identifies you in any way – bank statements, extra copies of records, bills, letters regarding financial matters, and similar documents. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  37. Preventing Financial Crimes (cont.) Know about your credit. • Get a copy of your credit report at least once a year to make sure that information is accurate and complete. • By 2007 a single copy of your report from each major credit bureau will be available for free every year. • Consider ordering reports on a staggered basis throughout the year. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  38. Order Credit Reports Three major credit bureaus • Equifax - www.equifax.comTo order your report, call 800-685-1111 or write PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241. • Experian - www.experian.comTo order your report, call 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write PO Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  39. Order Credit Reports (cont.) • Trans Union - www.transunion.comTo order your report, call 800-888-4213 or write PO Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  40. Property Crimes Property crimes against seniors include • Burglary • Larceny • Auto theft • Petty theft National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  41. Property Crimes (cont.) • More than nine in ten crimes against the elderly are property crimes. • When compared with other age groups, persons age 65 or older were disproportionately victims of property crimes. • Property crimes, not violence, represent the highest share of crime against those 65 or older. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  42. Property Crimes (cont.) • Property crime is any crime when money or valuables are damaged or stolen from a person, home, or business without direct personal contact. • This includes burglary from a business or residence and auto theft. • Victims of property crimes suffer financial losses and may feel violated and continue to feel unsafe long after the crime. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  43. Preventing Auto Theft • Lock the doors. Roll up the windows. Stay alert and check surroundings. • Securing your car, even if you are parked in your driveway or leaving the car for just a minute, can be enough to discourage many would-be auto thieves. • Check the car and the area around it before you get in. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  44. Preventing Auto Theft (cont.) • Consider installing tracking or security devices on your car. • Take part in car theft prevention programs that allow police officers to stop your car if it’s being driven during hours when you don’t normally drive. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  45. Preventing Theft While Shopping • Empty wallets and purses beforehand of items you won’t need. • Keep packages out of sight in the car trunk. • Do not walk with your arms full of bundles that limit your line of sight or ability to respond. • Keep your wallet in a front pants pocket or inside coat pocket. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  46. Preventing Theft While Shopping (cont.) • Keep purses closed and held snugly near your body. • Keep all receipts separate from purchases. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  47. Preventing Property Crime at Home • Set up timed lights and have a trusted neighbor pick up mail and newspapers while you are away. • Make sure your windows and house number are visible from the street. Illuminate doorways and walkways. • Trim shrubs. • Ask the police department to perform a security survey. National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  48. Violent Crimes • Seniors experience the lowest number of victimizations and lowest rate in proportion to their population. • The violent victimization rate of seniorshas declined over 22 percent since 2001. Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization 2003 National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  49. Violent Crimes (cont.) • Seniors are victimized at an annual rate of 2.7 per 1,000 persons. • Robbery disproportionately affects seniors. It accounts for a quarter of the violent crimes against seniors, but less than one-eighth of the violent crimes experienced by those ages 12 to 64. Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Prevention Council 2005

  50. Preventing Violent Crimes • Remember that most violent crimes (except robbery and purse snatching) take place between people known to each other. • Walk assertively, but not aggressively, in public areas. • When going outside, go with a friend if possible. National Crime Prevention Council 2005