published Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Phillips: In most entries by thieves, intruder just walks in

by Ellen Phillips

According to Consumer Reports, members of the public are a very easy target for thieves. This week’s and next week’s columns will center upon the tactics (most of which are very simple errors on our part) we should use to protect ourselves against criminal activities.

Lock the doors. Former burglar Bob Portenier says most break-ins are actually “walk-ins.” We’re in such a hurry with morning hustle and bustle we forget to take that moment to check for locked doors. Don’t.

Close the garage door. Not only does an open door provide access to everything in the garage, many folks leave their interior door unlocked (see above). Now Robby Robber has access to your house and, once the garage door is closed by ole’ Rob, the neighbors can’t see him hard at work.

Watch where you hide your house key. Some of the old favorites are the very ones where burglars

search. If you’re concerned about losing your key — home or car — keep a spare in your wallet.

Don’t obscure your house. Tall fences and bushes hide windows and doors; these covers give crooks areas in which to enter your home.

Keep your security alarm on when you’re at home. Home invasions can result in serious injury or death so keep the alarm on at all times.

Advertising a vacation is stupid. Make sure one or more lights are on a timer. Place some inexpensive toys on the lawn, contact the post office and newspaper to hold mail and papers, and call local law enforcement to patrol while you’re away. (Don’t mention anything on Facebook until after you return.)

Destroy confidential documents. These include medical records, prescription bottle labels, bills, receipts, and credit card offers — any paperwork that provides personal information to a potential thief. Invest in an inexpensive shredder to be on the safe side.

Don’t bank from a public computer. Passwords and other important data can be compromised.

Monitor credit and debit cards. As I always advise, check at least weekly to spot any unauthorized transactions. I receive an email alert from the companies if an item is charged over a specified amount.

It’s better to use a credit card or cash at gas pumps. Debit card skimming is on the rise so we need to avoid entering our PIN during the operation.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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