I think spring may just be my favorite season! With every flower that pushes through last year’s fallen leaves and makes its way to full bloom, hope blooms with it. We begin spring cleaning (well, some people do – I know what the phrase means), wash windows, clean out drawers and closets, garages, work in flower beds and the like. For others, it means we start our home repair projects, or it may mean we work on ourselves, or a mix of all these.
As we begin spending more time outdoors, or starting those home projects, we need to keep safety in the forefront of our minds, because, unfortunately, while we are soaking in the season, scammers and criminals are looking for ways to separate us from our money and our peace. While seniors seem to be highly targeted, no one is immune. But there are measures we can take to ensure we, and our loved ones, don’t fall victim to seasonal crimes.
Let’s start with those home repairs. While you are working on those fresh coats of paint, check your locks to make sure they work properly. Tighten any screws that appear lose, and replace the strike plate screws with longer ones so that the plate stays in place if someone uses force against the door. Ask a professional what type of locks they recommend for you. There are so many varieties now; some even with a view!
Make sure to secure your windows with security hardware. Even if you have old windows, you can purchase window locks that work like small vice grips on your windows to securely lock each one. They’re easily installed and very inexpensive. Place a bar of some type in the track of a sliding door to ensure it is secure.
I’m going to tell you, as a short girl, if you don’t have a peep hole you can reach to see through, or a window to tell who is on your doorstep, you’re putting yourself at risk. Either have someone drill another for you, or have another door installed. Storm doors are a good idea, too. Not only are they an extra layer of insulation, when locked, they can provide an additional barrier between you and a potential intruder. I learned the hard way when we lived in Northern Virginia. A door-to-door scammer became frustrated when I denied him a sale he was attempting through our storm door. I didn’t have the storm door locked, and the more I protested that I didn’t wish to buy his cleaning product, the more he insisted I just needed to see how well it worked on my carpet. My dog had started to growl beside me, very softly. I stepped back to close my front door while the man was still speaking, and as I did, he grabbed the handle of the storm door and opened it! I was quicker than he was, thank goodness, and flipped it locked as I slammed it shut. My dog moved between us and became louder and aggressive, something he’d never done before. The man appeared startled, and angry. I closed my front door with him still talking, and called our local Sheriff’s Department. They arrived quickly and were able to stop a scammer from achieving his goal in our community.
Door-to-door folks who are not legitimate make it bad for those who are, so ask to see their ID and if they have any paperwork or permits authorizing them to solicit. If they can’t produce it, close the door. I know, I know, we’re polite here in Kentucky – but if I had been polite, it could have taken a different turn. Better to be a little rude and safe than polite and risk your welfare. Just don’t let them talk their way in, and never let them get you to step out of your home. When in doubt – always call law enforcement. I assure you, they do not mind. The non-emergency number for Owensboro Police Department is 270-687-8888 and the non-emergency number for the Sheriff’s Department is 270-685-8444. Of course, if you you or someone else is in danger, don’t hesitate to call 911.
You’ve secured your doors and windows, added some bars to your sliding doors, and now it’s time to work outside and make some changes. Exterior lighting is easy, affordable, and attractive. Using motion-sensor lighting can be helpful and easy to install, too. I can’t stress enough that we need to leave our lights on over our entrances at night. Intruders do not want to be seen breaking in, so the more light you have, the less likely they will attempt to break into your home.
Alarm systems are always an option. I’d recommend getting several quotes to compare, asking around among your friends to see who has recommendations, and then find a company that best suits your needs. Sometimes, a dog can be a great alarm system and a great companion. Just wanted to throw that in there.
Keep bushes and shrubs trimmed and away from your home. Trees and shrubs should be lower than 3 feet or higher than 7 feet. I’d also go further and say that if there are any that an adult could wait behind and jump out at you, cut them back or get rid of them.
There’s no need any more to hide a key. There are so many new types of door locks, and some can even be controlled by a smartphone. Please don’t leave a key under a door mat or all those other places we think of as clever. If you must leave a key for emergencies, leave one with a trusted neighbor. Speaking of neighbors, keep an eye on each other’s patterns and if anything seems suspicious, alert someone. For example, if someone hasn’t gotten his or her mail for a while or if your neighbor has been out of town, and you see lights come on that shouldn’t be, better to make a call that turns out to be nothing.
Make sure to check your house numbers to ensure they’re still visible and clear in both the daylight and in the dark. In fact, check them in all types of weather. If your neighborhood allows, painting them on the curb can be helpful.
Lastly, carry a charged phone with you at all times and keep it turned on. I once locked myself out of my entire yard after dark. I stepped to the backside of our fence that had blown down to push it back up and secure it. I hammered it back up and then realized I’d nailed myself out of my yard with no way to get back in, and no way to call anyone. I could only walk the entire length of the neighborhood after dark in an alley alone. It’s funny now; not so much then. Also, not so much for the startled couple who rounded the corner during their evening walk and ran right into a very awkward woman carrying a claw hammer!
Scammers and criminals come at us through our phones; they try to pretend to be salespeople and visit our homes. They prey on seniors, pretending to be their grandchildren and asking them to buy gift cards and read the codes to them off the back after we purchase them. It is unending. Know that your local law enforcement, your Attorney General’s Consumer Protection office, and the staff at the Senior Community Center will do anything they can to help you. If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam or fraud, you can contact any of us and we will all work together to help you. Because trust me, nothing should interrupt your peace.