Tips to guard your handbag against theft

Posted Feb. 12, 2013, at 3:13 p.m.

Senior Beat

Carol Higgins Taylor

If you have been watching the news lately, you know that purse snatchings are on the rise. Maybe it’s a sign of the times or maybe the thieves are just getting bolder, but whatever the reason it is important to be more diligent about your belongings.

One of the major problems, aside from stealing your money, is the very real possibility of identity theft because all the necessary information required for such a crime is usually stored in a wallet. And if you keep your house keys in your purse with your driver’s license, which has your home address on it, and then lose the whole shebang, you might have unintended visitors.

While there really aren’t any safety tips that have a 100-percent guarantee against victimization, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of being robbed.

• 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.

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.” The next thing you know your purse is out the door tucked under the arm of some unsavory character.

• 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. For added safety, if possible wear it under your coat.

But 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.

• 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. Instead, grab a handful of paper towels and set your purse on them between your feet. Just toss them in the trash on your way out.

• 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.

• 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.

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 after 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 go to www.EAAA.org.

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