Safety Tips

FBAC members, when you call the patrol cellphone number, also call 911  (when calling in an emergency or to report suspicious activity). If possible, have one person call the FBAC cellphone # while the other calls 911. This is important for many reasons including our FBAC officers' safety. If 911 and APD are aware of a situation in progress it helps get backup to our officers more quickly if needed. Members should be getting an email every month with the patrol officers' cellphone # and schedule – if not, contact us.

TIPS FOR EVERYONE (FBAC MEMBERS OR NOT):
--------------------------------------
1. Advice from APD on how to behave in case of a mugging or robbery
2. General safety tips mostly from the VHCA Safety Team
3. Additional safety tips from Poncey-Highland

1. ADVICE FROM APD - HOW TO BEHAVE IN CASE OF A MUGGING


In a Robbery Confrontation: Never resist. Throw everything on the ground and run the opposite way. This includes vehicle keys and cell phones.

Dummy Wallet: Keep a "dummy" wallet, purchased from the dollar store, smaller and compact, on your person with at least $10 or even $20 worth of $1 bills inside the wallet. $1 bills make it appear to be more money on a quick glance. Place several business cards and a fake credit or insurance card, an AAA or fake AARP rubber card inside. Any of the spam credit cards that come in the mail will do. Those cards look like the "real thing", until you look very closely. Then, if approached, you throw down the dummy wallet, and run away in the opposite direction.

Don't resist: Women who have been a victim of robbery have reported to Officers on how they have resisted, or initially resisted, demands to give up their purse. The least confrontation, conversation and time spent in front of a would-be robber or assailant, the better. Throw the purse on the ground, don't talk, and run.

Don't take a lot with you: I teach women who walk alone, day or night, or when shopping, out with friends, etc., to not carry much of anything in their purse at all, and to never carry bills or any other personal information. Do not walk with headphones on. Never leave keys to your home or vehicle in a handbag or purse. Try not to have your driver’s license inside of a billfold or wallet. Don't carry a purse at all, when possible.

Rent a P.O. Box: Everyone should consider renting a PO Box to receive mail. Box number can also be used as an address for your, State Driver’s License instead of your actual home address.   Never carry your U.S. Social Security Card with you, at any time

Tracking programs for computers and cellphones: We encourage citizens to purchase a tracker on their laptops and iPhones.

Pepper Spray: Carrying pepper spray or a concealed weapon with a permit is a personal decision, but having either inside a purse or backpack is discouraged, as time is a major factor on a face to face confrontation. Either can also be used on the victim. Consider taking a self-defense course to learn how to use these safely. If you do decide on pepper spray, make sure not to spray yourself, and carry it in your hand when walking alone or at night.

Scream: Should you be confronted, screaming loudly is encouraged, and screaming "fire" does get the attention of others. Victims often become so scared they forget to scream. Screaming may bring a witness to a window or door, or to your aid. They may be able to see a person running away, or a vehicle tag number or description, and a direction of travel. Do not argue or become combative. Try to comply with demands.

Never leave the scene with the confronter, if it can be avoided. Do not get into a vehicle. Victims can fake being sick, throw-up, fake a seizure, or even a heart attack. Try to use bodily fluids to wet yourself or create a foul smell. Roll around on the ground if you cannot escape. If you are placed into a vehicle, try to leave something behind: a piece of clothing, chewing gum (spit it out), a lipstick, watch, or kick off a shoe.

Try to memorize a vehicle license tag number by using names and ages of family or friends, not by Military/Alpha, unless you have been trained to use this method.

If you think you are being followed by vehicle, never go home or to a friend's home. Go the nearest place of safety; A Fire or Police Station, A 24 hour Gas Station, Drive Down The Middle Of A Busy Street, Go to a Fast Food Restaurant, and wherever you are, blow your car horn without stopping, over and over again. Call 911, to get help on the way.

The APD Crime Stoppers Unit is confidential. If someone has information, a tip on crime, or they want to report something of interest, they may not come forward, if they are scared, and they may not want to get involved. If they do make that call, they do not have to give any more information than they feel comfortable in giving, and they may even be eligible for a reward.

Yours For A Safer Atlanta,
Senior Inspector Christina Walker, Atlanta Police COPS Unit Zone 6, 404-371-5002



2. GENERAL SAFETY TIPS FROM VHCA
Thanks to John Wolfinger of the VHCA Safety Committee for most of these

Rule #1: Nothing in your car!
  • Don't leave anything in your car when you park it. Certainly not guns! No electronics like iPods, GPS systems, laptops. Read our Safety Team's reports (link on left) to find out how many cars are broken into because these things are left in them. All over Atlanta, and here too.
  • Residue from suction cups on your car windows indicate you may have a GPS, and a thief may think it's sitting under your seat.
  • Some advice says don't even leave papers, blankets, bags, or other innocuous items in your car, as thieves, sometimes desperate to score their next hit, might think something of value is among them. 
  • Some advice goes as far as to say: leave your glovebox empty and open

Other tips

Be aware when driving home and parking
Be alert and aware of our surroundings, especially when parking on our streets, or in your driveway too for that matter - several residents have been robbed at gunpoint when parking. If, as you are parking, and have a gut feeling that all is not well, do not take the chance of exiting, but pull back out on the street, make a 911 report of what you have observed and drive around the block a couple of times before coming back to see if the coast is now clear for a safe exit to your destination.

Know Your Vehicle's License Plate Number
In his report made at the 10/4 VHCA meeting, our Lt. Schierbaum stressed the importance of knowing your license plate number so you can quickly and accurately make a police theft report either of the vehicle itself or of the plate. If you are "memory-challenged", have this information written down in several places for easy recall. He stated that investigations are often hampered and slowed down, simply because victims cannot quickly furnish this vital information. It's also a good idea to do the same with the vehicle's VIN.

Get double-key locks
If you do not have double-key locks on your doors - consider changing them very soon. Thieves can break your back-door window and reach in to open it.

If you have a burned-out street light
Report it at http://customerservice.southerncompany.com/Outage/Streetlight.aspx

Thwart package thieves - get packages delivered to a local merchant
Click to view map
Thieves operate in our area who follow the UPS and FedEx trucks, stealing packages off your porch. You can prevent any chance of this happening by getting your package delivered to one of a number of local businesses, who will hold it for you and contact you when it's in.

Participating merchants (click on map to view locations) are:
  • Intown Hardware 
  • City Storage 
  • Urban Body 
  • Highland Wine & Crystal 
Before sending a package in care of them, stop by the merchant to sign up.


3. EVEN MORE TIPS FROM PONCEY HIGHLAND'S SAFETY SITE:


  • Break down the boxes for new appliances, especially televisions, instead of leaving them on the curb... a news plasma box on the curb in front of the house is an advertisement for a thief looking for a house to hit.
  • Don’t hire day laborers. it may seem charitable and convenient to pick up a couple people at home Depot to rake your yard, or to hire someone going door to door looking for work to clean out a garage, but in many documented cases these jobs are just a front to scope out your house, how to break in, and your patterns. the neighborhood also does not need to encourage non residents from soliciting.
  • Make sure your house numbers are visible from the street AND visible at night. If the pizza guy can’t find your house neither can the police or eMts.
  • Know your neighbors. Let them know when you are going to be out of town so they can be on the lookout for suspicious activity at your residence.
  • Keep up the appearance of your property. unmoved lawns, old newspapers, herbie-kerbies that have not been returned are all signs to a potential burglar that you are not home. if you are not going to be there then work out a deal with a neighbor or stop your mail by filling out a simple form from the post office... available in per- son or online, and putting it in your mailbox.
  • Make sure someone has your current phone numbers so you can be reached. if you have an alarm, make sure the alarm company has your current contact info. atlanta police have reported not being able to keep persons of interest more than overnight because they could not locate victims to identify property.

Holiday Safety tips 
from APD Zone 4 in partnership with Learn to Grow, Inc. (11/2010)

At Home
  • Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave your house or apartment even for a few minutes.
  • Don’t display holiday gifts where they can be seen from a window or doorway. Store gifts before you go away on a holiday trip.
  • If you go out for the evening, turn on lights and a radio or television so the house or apartment appears to be occupied.
  • If you take a holiday trip away from your home, have some interior lights activated by an automatic timer. Have a neighbor or family member watch your house, shovel new snow, pick up the mail and newspaper and park his or her motor vehicle in your driveway from time to time.
  • Mark your valuables with an identification number or a code.
  • Be wary of strangers soliciting for charitable donations. They may attempt to take advantage of people’s generosity during the holidays. Ask for identification, how are donated funds used; are contributions tax deductible, etc.? If you aren’t satisfied with the answers, don’t give. 
  • Immediately after the holidays, mark new gifts with an identification number and record new serial numbers.
  • Test your smoke detectors.
  • Use only fire resistant ornaments on a holiday tree and make sure electric lights are in good working order. Don’t leave the lights on overnight or when you are away from home.
  • If you have house guests, advise them of your security precautions and make sure they follow them.
  • Avoid leaving boxes from purchases (especially TV’s, VCR’s, computer, etc.) out on the curb for trash pickup. 
 Shopping
  • Shop before dark. Coordinate shopping trips with a friend. Never park in an unlit lot or area, no matter how convenient it is.
  • Lock your packages and gifts in your vehicle’s trunk. Keep you vehicle’s doors locked and windows closed.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay for purchases with a check, credit card, or debit card when possible.
  • To discourage purse-snatchers, limit the number of packages you carry. Have your purchases delivered whenever practical.
  • Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse under your arm. Keep a wallet in an inside jacket pocket, not a back trouser pocket.
  • Teach children to go to a store clerk or security guard and ask for help if you become separated. Children should never go into a parking lot alone. 
Holiday Party Safety
  • Serve non-alcoholic beverages at your party.
  • Don’t drink and drive


Internet Holiday Shopping Tips 

Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams 11/2010

This holiday season, the FBI reminds shoppers that cyber criminals aggressively create new ways to steal money and personal information. Scammers use many techniques to fool potential victims, including conducting fraudulent auction sales, reshipping merchandise purchased with stolen credit cards, and selling fraudulent or stolen gift cards through auction sites at discounted prices.

Fraudulent Classified Ads and Auction Sales

Internet criminals post classified ads and auctions for products they do not have and make the scam work by using stolen credit cards. Fraudsters receive an order from a victim, charge the victim’s credit card for the amount of the order, then use a separate, stolen credit card for the actual purchase. They pocket the purchase price obtained from the victim’s credit card and have the merchant ship the item directly to the victim. Consequently, an item purchased from an online auction but received directly from the merchant is a strong indication of fraud. Victims of such a scam not only lose the money paid to the fraudster, but may be liable for receiving stolen goods.

Shoppers may help avoid these scams by using caution and not providing financial information directly to the seller, as fraudulent sellers will use this information to purchase items for their schemes. Always use a legitimate payment service to ensure a safe, legitimate purchase.

As for product delivery, fraudsters posing as legitimate delivery services offer reduced or free shipping to customers through auction sites. They perpetuate this scam by providing fake shipping labels to the victim. The fraudsters do not pay for delivery of the packages; therefore, delivery service providers intercept the packages for nonpayment and the victim loses the money paid for the purchase of the product.

Diligently check each seller’s rating and feedback along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100 percent positive feedback, with a low total number of feedback postings, or with all feedback posted around the same date and time.

Gift Card Scam

Be careful when purchasing gift cards through auction sites or classified ads. It is safest to purchase gift cards directly from the merchant or retail store. If the gift card merchant discovers that your card is fraudulent, the merchant will deactivate the gift card and refuse to honor it for purchases. Victims of this scam lose the money paid for the gift card purchase.

Phishing and Smishing Schemes

In phishing schemes, a fraudster poses as a legitimate entity and uses e-mail and scam websites to obtain victims’ personal information, such as account numbers, user names, passwords, etc. Smishing is the act of sending fraudulent text messages to bait a victim into revealing personal information.

Be leery of e-mails or text messages that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, fraudsters direct victims to follow a link or call a number to update an (over)account or correct a purported problem. The link directs the victim to a fraudulent website or message that appears legitimate. Instead, the site allows the fraudster to steal any personal information the victim provides.
Holiday Shopping Tips

Current smishing schemes involve fraudsters calling victims’ cell phones offering to lower the interest rates for credit cards the victims do not even possess. If a victim asserts that they do not own the credit card, the caller hangs up. These fraudsters call from TRAC cell phones that do not have voicemail, or the phone provides a constant busy signal when called, rendering these calls virtually untraceable.

Another scam involves fraudsters directing victims, via e-mail, to a spoofed website. A spoofed website is a fake site that misleads the victim into providing personal information, which is routed to the scammer’s computer.

Phishing schemes related to deliveries are also rampant. Legitimate delivery service providers neither e-mail shippers regarding scheduled deliveries nor state when a package is intercepted or being temporarily held. Consequently, e-mails informing of such delivery issues are phishing scams that can lead to personal information breaches and financial losses.

Tips

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail with the link to which you are directed and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
  • Log directly onto the official website for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.
  • If you are asked to act quickly, or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.
  • Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information.
  • Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

To receive the latest information about cyber scams, sign up for e-mail alerts on the FBI website. If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov.