weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

At seminar, seniors learn to stay safe, avoid scams

An easy target — that’s how crooks view older Americans.

Bella Yourgules-Scholes, crime prevention specialist with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Enterprise Area Command, visited Las Ventanas, 10401 W. Charleston Blvd., on Feb. 17 to help retirees be aware of scams and know how to stay safe.

It can be as simple as pulling out your car keys before you leave the cash register. That way, they’re already in hand, and you can be aware of your surroundings while walking to the car. Similarly, don’t overburden yourself with packages.

“They’re looking for a struggling fish, someone not paying attention,” Yourgules-Scholes said.

If you’re feeling uneasy going out to the car, trust your instincts. Return to the store and ask security for an escort.

That shopping trip? There’s no need to take all your cash. If you plan to spend only $40, take $45 or $50, Yourgules-Scholes said. Crooks take note of those with a wad of money.

They also take note of purses left in shopping carts. Thieves usually don’t steal the purse … just the wallet inside. They and the wallet are long gone by the time the shopper goes to check out.

Resident Maria Campbell knows there’s safety in numbers. She likes that Las Ventan as offers bus trips for outings such as shopping and banking. “When you’re in a group, there’s a feeling of being with others, not being alone,” she said. “I feel safer.”

Yourgules-Scholes said women should not let purses dangle but keep them close to the vest. Men, she said, should carry their wallet in a jacket pocket or a front pants pocket. For men who like the convenience of the wallet in the back pocket, wrap it with a rubber band.

“Pick pockets are really good, but if you put a rubber band around your wallet, you’re going to feel it coming out of your pocket,” she said.

If a woman knows a robbery is imminent, she should toss the purse and run in the opposite direction.

Pat and Warren Mullen used to live in Sun City Summerlin, where they said they felt safe. Part of that had to do with their own awareness of safety; both volunteered for the Sun City Patrol. The rule of thumb there: Keep your doors locked even when you’re home and keep the garage door down.

“Crooks seem to hit (focus on) old people because they know they can’t defend themselves,” Pat Mullen said. “It makes me want to carry a big butcher knife in my pocket.”

The rules for senior safety aren’t that different than for the rest of the population. It’s just that seniors can be more vulnerable targets.

Handouts spelled out common-sense practices that bear repeating: if someone knocks on your door, use the peephole to see who it is; open your door only to someone you know; use thumb screws if leaving a window open for ventilation; engrave your electronics and valuable items, but use a number other than your Social Security number; beware of investments claiming incredibly high yields; have a family member read any contract before you sign it; leave your Social Security card locked up at home; guard your identity by shredding any papers with identifying information bound for the trash; use direct deposit to avoid checks arriving via the mail.

Metro is promoting its Lock, Take and Hide campaign aimed at stopping car break-ins. Yourgules-Scholes said thieves will steal items out of unlocked cars or smash the windows of locked cars to steal an item in plain sight.

Attendee Warren Mullen said not all crooks were the ones who robbed you face to face, that electronic scams were out there, too.

“They’re getting smarter day by day,” he said. “They keep finding new ways to rip you off.”

Some of those ways seem innocent enough, but do not respond to emails asking you to “verify” your bank information, even if it has your bank logo on it. Similarly, ignore the foreigner offering to split a fabulous inheritance if you agree to use your bank account.

“And you’re not going to win a lottery you never entered,” Yourgules-Scholes said.

For more tips on staying safe, handouts are available at any Metropolitan Police Department area command. Metro also offers First Tuesday evening programs. Visit lvmpd.com.

Contact Summerlin and South Summerlin View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.