With warm weather in the forecast and summer activities on the calendar, being alert to intruders and crime should also be in your plans.
How to avoid being vulnerable to intruders both inside and out? First, use common sense. Leaving valuables on display, such as your big screen television, computer or fancy camera is not a good idea. When goodies arrive in boxes, don’t leave them out on the curb to advertise your new purchases. Take a minute and cut boxes into pieces and recycle if possible.
Windows and doors are the first place burglars try to gain access. In the summer, people tend to be casual and leave windows open. Several burglaries in the Los Angeles area have recently been reported by victims who simply left the door unlocked while they puttered around the yard or went out for “just a few minutes.” Unless you have burglar bars or inaccessible windows, turn on the fan or air conditioner when you head out and avoid leaving accessible windows open.
Electric timers are inexpensive and worth the time to set up. Connect a table or floor lamp on a timer by the front door. Whether you’re in town or out, it’s nice to shed light to welcome guests and abate intruders. Make the place look occupied as much as possible. Timers can also control a radio or television to supply that “lived in” sound effect.
Dust off entry areas and keep fliers off the door handle as much as possible. Of course, suspend or cancel newspaper delivery when you’re out of town. Some newspaper companies will forward them to your vacation address, too.
Not going on vacation? Everyday fraud and credit protection should always be in your plans. Your delivered mail should never be tossed into the trash. A thief grabbing a copy of your bank statement out of the trash may be looking to defraud your account. A paper shredder is inexpensive and worth the cost. Make a pile of unwanted mail in a basket designated as “ready to shred.”
Don’t forget to shred unwanted credit card offers. Stemming the flow of offers is easy. Calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) will have your name removed from direct marketing lists, including credit card offers. Computer users can opt-out online at www.OptOutPreScreen.com, which is the official consumer credit reporting industry Web site and is available for no charge.
You can also reach the three main credit reporting bureaus by contacting them directly. Equifax, TransUnion and Experian all offer consumers direct access to credit information and can stop unwanted solicitations. Online access via Equifax.com, TransUnion.com and Experian.com, which all provide credit reporting, can also help with fraud and identify theft.
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Federal law requires you be provided, at your request, a free copy of your credit report annually. Watch out for so-called “free” services that are merely a tease for a credit monitoring service that charges fees.
According to the Federal Trade Commission Web site, “A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment or renting a home.” Online you can order your report at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You can also request reports by mail at Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga., 30348-5281.
Intruders on your privacy via phone are an annoyance and possible source of intruder invitation. To keep unsolicited telemarketing calls at bay, call 1-888-382-1222, using the actual phone line you want blocked. Don’t forget to call using your cell phone, too. Within 30 days calls should be blocked and remain blocked for five years. Still being pestered? Any solicitors calling after 30 days can be reported. Online the service is available at www.donotcall.gov; registration is free.
Heading out of town? A handy service provided by the post office holds your mail until you return or can forward your mail to another address while you’re away. Simply apply online at www.usps.com and click the button for “receiving mail.” There is no charge for the service. Mail can be held a minimum of three days and up to 30 days.
While no method is foolproof, common sense and a little bit of consumer information goes a long way towards protecting your valuables and privacy.