Crime is a frightening problem, especially for senior citizens, who often are targets of opportunistic criminals.
Seniors should be vigilant and take steps to avoid being victims of crime. Pay attention to your surroundings, be prepared and, if you are the victim of a crime, contact police immediately. That will help to reduce your losses and increase the chances police can capture the criminal.
Here are some ways recommended by the Better Business Bureau, consumer advocate Clark Howard and others to reduce your chances of being a victim of crime.

At the door, at the store or on the phone
Protect yourself from common consumer crimes. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand. See a lawyer if you have questions you can’t answer for yourself.
Medical fraud: Ask your health-care provider for advice before buying into “miracle cures” or special deals.
Land-In-The-Sun deals: Never buy sight unseen. Check out both property and seller.
Sweepstakes scams: Don’t pay anything or give your credit card number in order to claim a “free prize.”
Home repairs: Avoid “free” inspections. Deal only with firms you trust. Ask to see licenses and Sandy Springs permits.
Business schemes: Beware of work-at-home job offers with “registration” fees.
Insurance fraud: Carefully read offers that claim large benefits at low rates. They may be exaggerated.
Buyer beware: Before you agree to anything, check out offers with the Better Business Bureau and get advice from people you trust.

Beware too-good-to-be-true sales gimmicks or high-pressure sales tricks
If you feel you aren’t getting straight answers, end the conversation.
The “Bait and Switch”: Stores lure you in for a “bargain,” then try to sell you a more expensive model.
Fear tactics: Watch out for sales claims that play on your fears of misfortune.
“Harmless” contracts: Fine-print clauses can cost you plenty! Read contracts carefully and ignore verbal promises.
Debt consolidation: Watch out for sky-high interest rates in these plans.
Pressure tactics: Beware of salespeople who rush your decision.
Referral Selling: You may get the promised “discount” only if you get friends to buy, too.
Don’t sign anything you don’t understand. See a lawyer if needed.

Watch out for crooks and con games
Before you hand anybody your cash, stop and think carefully about what they’re offering.
Here are some common scams crooks use to convince the unwary to hand over their money.
Bank scams: If a person claiming to be a “bank official” or “detective” asks for help to “catch a crooked teller,” watch out. You could end up withdrawing your savings, which then disappear.
Found money (also known as the “Pigeon Drop” scam): A stranger strikes up a conversation and is joined by a friend who claims to have just “found” an envelope full of money. They offer you a share the cash if the victim agrees to put up “good faith” money. They even offer to let you hold the cash. Then they switch packages and take off with your money.
Phony bills: A surviving spouse is sent bills for phony debts or purchases. Check out unfamiliar bills before you pay them

How can you foil con artists?
Ask for ID and get their names. Always check “officials” by calling the office or agency they claim sent them.
Call Sandy Springs Police at 911 if you’re suspicious. And should you become a victim of a crime, take action to help the police. Report the incident. Note as many details as possible; remember clothing, car types, car tag numbers.
When a criminal is caught, press charges. This can help protect others.

Officer Larry Jacobs is a crime prevention specialist with the Crime Prevention Unit of the Sandy Springs Police Department. He can be reached at