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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2555

Personal safety tips from NYPD Captain

By Captain Stanley George

We live in an age where our privacy can be compromised quite easily. Modern day thieves have the capabilities to effortlessly steal identity and property using sophisticated tools.

The accessibility of social media and technological advancements aid them in their missions. A lack of expertise in these realms leaves many at risk, especially seniors with losing their hard-earned savings of many years.
The intention of these lines is to bring a basic awareness and several safety tips for your personal safety and the protection of property.

I would like to categorize three areas of concerns as personal safety tips, property security, and various contemporary scams.

Walking: While walking, use well populated streets, and at night use well-lit streets. If you need to walk in desolate areas, do so with a partner. If you suspect someone is following you, try to stay away from deserted blocks and head for areas where there are people. If needed, go into an open store to get help. It is a good habit to pay attention to your surroundings, and to take a mental note of both common and uncommon occurrences on your route. Pay special attention to unusual people and vehicles. Should a motorist bother you while you are walking, reverse your direction. If you are still followed, seek a safe location and yell for help. If you are driven home, ask the driver to wait until you are safely inside the building.

Using the Subway or the Bus: Have your money or metro card readily available before you reach the stop/terminal. Wait for the bus on the sidewalk, away from the curb. When sitting in the Subway, sit in the center of the car, away from the door to avoid a purse or chain snatch. Also, make sure to cover jewelry and turn stone rings inward, towards the palm side of your hand. Use designated waiting areas during off-peak hours. Stay awake, aware, and exit with the crowd. Ride in the conductor’s car during off-peak hours. While waiting for the train, stand in the middle of the platform, away from the yellow platform edge strip.

Elevator: When waiting for an elevator, leave the lobby if someone makes you uncomfortable. Check the elevator’s mirror before entering. If accosted in the elevator, press as many buttons as possible to try and get the elevator to stop at the next floor. Exit the elevator if someone enters that makes you feel uneasy. Stand between the control panel and door when in the elevator. If you feel suspicious and do not want to get off on the floor you originally requested, use an excuse not to get off.

Driving: Keep your car well maintained and the gas tank at least half full to avoid getting stranded. Keep valuables secured in the trunk, not visible from outside. Put your purse on the floor of your car. Should you suspect that you are being followed, make several turns down active streets. If the vehicle continues to follow, head for the nearest police station, fire house or open store.

ATM: Use well lit, well-populated ATMs. Be aware of suspicious people near the entrance. Use mirrors, positioned at the ATM, to see behind you. Put your money away and take your card and receipt before exiting an ATM. Avoid ATM’s that have unlocked doors or are directly out on the street. Do not let anyone into a bank vestibule using your card. Block a bystander’s view when entering your pin number.

Purse/Wallet: Carry purses or briefcase in a manner that will allow you to let go. If someone attempts to snatch your pocketbook, let go of it, especially if here is a weapon involved. Carry your keys on your person separate from your identification: use a separate pocket to store keys. If you are frequently bumped in a crowd, be aware that a pickpocket might be responsible. Always be aware of your surroundings and carry your pocketbook clasp toward you, close to your body, tucked in the bend of your elbow as if it were a football. Always keep your purse closed. Carry it close to the front of your body or hold it tightly under an arm. Divide money between your purse/wallet and pockets.

Home: Have your keys ready before you get to the door. Make sure your entrance area is well lit. Place your name on the inside of the mailbox where only the mail carrier will see it. If a name must be on the outside, use only the last name. IF you live in an apartment, close the lobby door behind you, especially if a stranger is approaching. Make all visitors and delivery persons use the doorbell. If a stranger asks to use the phone, keep your door locked and tell them you will place the call for them and keep him/her out of your home.
Parking: Park in a well-lit area to discourage personal attack and reduce the risk of your car being stolen. Look around before exiting your car. Take any valuables with you and don’t leave them visible in the car. Close all windows and lock the doors.

Property: Never carry your wallet in the rear pants pocket. Don’t leave laptop computers unattended, even for a minute. If you go to use the restroom, take your laptop and bag with you. Coffee shops such as Starbucks act as magnets for computer thieves; in these places students often leave them unattended. Carry only the amount of cash or number of credit cards necessary to make your purchases for the day. Hold on to your cell phone and keep it secured out of sight when not in use. When in a restaurant, don’t leave your handbag over the back of your chair. When dining out, the safest place for your purse is on your lap.

Vehicle: Vehicles are stolen for a variety of reasons, including theft for parts, insurance fraud, retagging, exporting and joyriding. Always lock and secure your vehicle. Always activate your alarm each time you leave your vehicle. Never leave the keys in the ignition when you exit the vehicle. Do not leave valet key in the car overnight. Never leave property in your vehicle. Items such as loose change, shopping bags, GPS, cell phones, laptops, tablets and their charging chords are targeted by thieves.

Home Cleaners: Use a company which has an excellent reputation and a long history. If you use a company or service, request the same cleaner every time. Clear surfaces of bills, appointment books, work files and any other document that you feel the need to protect. Place your valuables in a safe or locked room. Opt to make certain room(s) off limits.

ATM Skimming: ATM Skimming occurs when a criminal attaches a phony card reading device over the real card reader. Then the data is used to create cloned cards. Skimming devices can also be affixed to the card reader at the entrance door to the ATM. Before inserting your card, give a tug on the device to see whether it is attached with double sided tape. Be aware of money trapping, where the criminal attaches a device to the cash dispenser trapping the money and retrieves it after the customer leaves.

Mailbox Fishing: In mailbox fishing, thieves gain entry into mailboxes and steal mail. The purpose is to get checks, credit cards and personal information. When you use a mailbox, deposit mail as close to the scheduled pick up time as possible. Drop mail containing checks at the post office or hand it over to the mail carrier. Use a pen with pigmented (permanent) ink to write checks out. Whether you use the US Mail or other methods to move your money, remember to make record of transaction, in case you need it for future reference. Shred any voided or incorrectly written checks. Check washing is a process in which thieves use household products to alter checks. Then they make the checks payable to themselves. Check your account balance frequently to ensure checks were cleared by the establishment of which the checks were written.

Prepaid Gift Card Scams: People are losing thousands of dollars in phone scams involving prepaid gift cards. After receiving a phone call from someone who claims to be a utility company representative, a law enforcement officer, an IRS investigator or an immigration official, the caller is threatened with the loss of their utility service, criminal prosecution, tax liens or deportation if they do not submit an immediate payment over the phone via a prepaid gift card.

Arrest Scam: The victim’s family member has been arrested and the caller, pretending to be a law enforcement officer, threatens to keep them in jail unless bail money is paid with a prepaid gift card.

IRS Scam: A caller informs the victim that they owe back taxes to the IRS and must make immediate payment with a prepaid gift card.

Accident Scam: The victim’s family member had a car accident and the caller threatens physical violence unless immediate reimbursement is made with a prepaid gift card.

Utility Scam: Utility companies demand immediate payment by prepaid gift card or your electricity or gas will be turned off.

Lottery Scam: A caller informs the victim that they have won a lottery and must make immediate payment with a prepaid gift card to claim the prize.

Deportation Scam: The victim’s family member has been arrested and the caller, pretending to be an immigration official, threatens to deport them unless bail money is made with a prepaid gift card.

Deception Burglary Scam: These impersonators use false covers such as roofers, plumbers or electrical contractors. A common ploy being used is ‘a pipe broke down the block and we have to check the water”. Once inside, they distract the victim while stealing their valuables. If uninvited contractors knock on the door, do not invite them in the house. I hope that these scenarios and situations have made you aware of some personal safety and property protection methods which you can utilize for your safety and security. Most of these recommendations are adapted from the Crime Prevention Section of the NYPD. Therefore, courtesies are extended to the NYPD.

Captain Stanley George is among the highest ranking Indian-Americans in the NYPD and first Asian-American promoted as Captain. A native of Kerala, he can be reached at

- Asian Tribune -

Personal safety tips from NYPD Captain
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