Simple steps can help senior citizens to be more secure

Posted July 20, 2012, at 10:21 a.m.

Purses can be a challenge. I went shopping not long ago for the perfect bag. I realize that men don’t understand how completely impossible this task can be. The purse has to be fashionable, functional and snatch-resistant.

Zippers are great because if kept closed it’s harder for a thief to simply reach in and lift your wallet. And an adjustable strap can suit all occasions, from going across the body when in a crowd to a shorter strap that can be easier to maneuver in other situations. Nothing worse than an unruly purse strap with a mind of its own.

Having a snatch-proof purse can only go so far. Here are some precautions that can keep you from being victimized:

• Never leave a purse unattended in a shopping cart. A thief could be watching you, just waiting for you to become momentarily distracted. Inattention presents the perfect opportunity to grab your valuables without your immediate knowledge.

• Use a carabineer, a device that opens on one side, to secure your purse to the shopping cart. You can also hook the cart’s child safety belt through the handle of your bag.

• Never walk across a parking lot with your purse hanging over one shoulder, but instead draped across your body. If a thief does try to grab your bag, give it up willingly because you could be could be injured if a struggle ensued. Immediately report your loss to local police or sheriff and make a detailed note of the suspect’s description while waiting for the authorities.

• Use a clutch purse that tucks under your arm. Yes, it is inconvenient but if someone attempts to steal it, you won’t be dragged by the strap.

• Women should never hang purses on a bathroom stall door hook. A thief could easily reach over the top, grab the purse and be gone.

• Men should keep wallets in a place that is not readily accessible to a pickpocket. I have seen billfolds hanging half out of back pockets. Even without a thief’s help, these wallets are precariously tucked and on the verge falling out.

• When picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy, don’t reveal what drug you are buying, simply give your name. You never know who is listening. A loyal reader telephoned me with the following advice: ask that your medicine be put in a regular paper bag, not a pharmacy bag, which is a dead giveaway that you just had prescriptions filled. Smart.

• If you have pockets in your pants or skirt, pop your driver’s license and money or credit card in there and leave your purse at home altogether.

• Only carry the cards you need for your outing.

• Keep a record of your credit card and bank account numbers in a safe place at home so a theft can be immediately reported to the appropriate companies. And never carry anything that cannot be replaced, such as cherished photos.

While these suggestions may seem like common sense, they are often not followed. Next time you’re in a store that offers shopping carts look around. You might be surprised how many purses are left unattended “just for a second.”

Seniors are often a target because they usually to carry money with them and are the least likely to put up a fight or run after the suspect. Seniors also tend to be the poorest witnesses, having just experienced an emotional event.

Remember, if you do become a victim — remain calm, be a good witness, get a good description of the thief and immediately report your loss to authorities.

Most important of all, give up the bag. Stuff can be replaced and your safety is worth more than the contents of your purse.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, e-mail info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org.

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