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Home Security Tips:

This checklist was designed to assist you in making a security survey of your own home. The purpose of the survey is to identify security weaknesses of your home and daily routines around your home. These are things that make your home look inviting to the criminal. It should begin at the curb and end with the interior of the home. It should include house numbers, landscaping, doors, locks, strike plates, windows, indoor-outdoor lighting and its use, the garage and driveways.

From the Curb

  • Are your house numbers visible from the street for emergency service such as police, fire and ambulance?
  • Does the overall appearance of your home give criminals information about you and your family that would assist them in victimizing you; things such as a full mailbox, outdoor lighting on during the day, or the garage doors open with no cards present?
  • Are all fence gates padlocked to make it more difficult for strangers to enter your yard?

Landscaping

  • Are your shrubs and trees trimmed to "open up the line of sight" of your home for your neighbors from several directions?
  • Are shrubs and trees trimmed to prohibit concealment of an intruder?

Outdoor Lightning

  • Do you have only decorative lighting such as used in flower beds?
  • Do you have only entrance/exit lighting such as front/rear door type lights?
  • Do you have true security lighting operated by an electric eye or timer, every night, all night, giving your home a perimeter of light around it?

External Doors

  • Are all external doors either metal, solid wood, solid wood frame, or at least solid core construction?
  • Are door frames strong and tight enough to withstand some degree of force?
  • Are doors with outside exposed hinges pinned to prevent easy removal from outside?
  • Are all external doors equipped with "good" dead bolt locks which have at least a one-inch throw?
  • Are the strike plates installed with three-to-four inch screws which are anchored well into the two-by-four inch stud behind the door frame?
  • Are glass sliding doors pinned to prevent being forced open? Is the upper track secured with large pan head screws to prevent lifting?
  • Are French or double doors fitted with flush bolts at the top and bottom edge of the inactive or secondary door?
  • Is there a door leading from the garage to the interior of the home, and if so, is it equally secure as an external door?

Windows

  • Are wooden windows "pinned" on both sides, from the inside?
  • Are aluminum windows fitted with secondary locking devices, easily removed, in case of fire?
  • Is shrubbery trimmed away from the outside of the windows to prohibit concealment of an intruder?

Garage Doors

  • Are overhead garage doors fitted with an interior locking device, blocking the track, as well as an outside locking device?
  • Do windows in the garage door prohibit viewing the interior of the garage from the outside by use of curtains or film?
  • Is the garage door kept down and locked at all times?

Alarms offer additional security, but should never be substituted for good locks. When considering an alarm, you should have several companies appraise your needs. Insist on a written proposal and a copy of the contract you will need to sign. Before signing, check the company's reputation through the Better Business Bureau. Employees of the police department are prohibited from making any recommendations for any specific alarm company.

Identity Theft:

This column is designed to help you to take action to deal with the problems that could result from the loss of any of these items, or from any resulting identity theft.

  • Do not put your D.L. # or SSN# on your checks. This makes it easy to get a false ID made.
  • Do not carry your social security card or birth certificate copy in your wallet or purse.
  • Keep all credit card receipts safe. Many criminals use numbers off receipts to defraud.
  • Safeguard your PIN#s for all cards/accounts. Do not write them on or keep them with the cards.
  • Shred credit card offers you get in the mail. Thieves steal mail and trash to get these.
  • Don't give out any personal information over the phone.
    • If someone calls and asks for personal information or bank information, tell them you will call them back. Don't trust the phone number they give you, instead find the number to the company or bank yourself and call that number to verify. Check out the number AND the company.
  • If you get e-mails about winning the lottery or notifying you of a dead relative that left you millions in another Country, don't take their word for it. Check it out before you respond.
  • NEVER give your credit card number out to someone calling you - Make charges only when you call, or have verified the authenticity of the caller.
  • Do not put payments or checks in your mailbox for pickup. Mail them at a post office.
    • If possible, have all your monthly checks direct deposited to your bank rather than mailed to your home.
    • o Think about paying online. It's safer, quicker, and you get a confirmation number showing you made a payment. If the website is compromised, the business is responsible, not you.

THE GOOD NEWS: You are NOT responsible for monetary losses. The banks and credit card companies must refund your money losses (if any), although they may hold your money while they are conducting an investigation in the case. Some can charge you up to $50 per account, but most do not.

Remember to CALL, CHECK, and ASK QUESTIONS.

Better Business Bureau www.bbb.org

IF YOUR CHECKS OR CREDIT CARDS WERE TAKEN:

  • Notify your bank or credit card company if you have not already done so, and request that they close the account. Then call the three credit reporting bureaus to report the loss, and ask them to put a FRAUD ALERT on your account so NO NEW CREDIT will be issued without contacting you.
  • This is especially important if any form of identification was also stolen at the same time.

Experian 1-888-397-3742

Trans Union 1-800-680-7289

Equifax 1-800-525-6285

IF YOUR STOLEN CHECKS OR CARDS HAVE BEEN USED:

  • The subsequent use of any of the stolen checks or credit cards must be reported to the police by the merchant or bank where it was presented for payment. Contact the banks and/or businesses that accepted your checks or cards to notify them of the fraudulent use. Encourage the banks and businesses to pursue charges against any suspects identified.
  • Your bank or credit card company should have you sign an affidavit of check forgery or credit card fraud, and they should reverse all of the checks/charges relating to the fraudulent transactions.

IF NEW CHECKS OR CARDS HAVE BEEN MAILED TO A DIFFERENT ADDRESS:

  • Call the U.S. Postal Inspectors about mail being falsely forwarded, and notify the credit reporting bureaus.
  • U.S.P.S. Inspection Service 1-800-372-8347

IF YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD WAS TAKEN:

  • Call the Social Security Administration FRAUD HOTLINE to notify them of the loss and get information on how to get a duplicate card. Also, notify the credit reporting bureaus listed above. Request a copy of a credit report a month or two after the theft to make sure no fraudulent accounts are being opened.

IF YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE WAS TAKEN:

  • Apply for a duplicate driver’s license as soon as possible through your local DPS office, and ask them to put an "alarm" on your driver’s license as stolen to help prevent identity theft. Also, notify the credit reporting bureaus and request a credit report after one month.

IF SOMEONE HAS STOLEN YOUR IDENTITY TO GET NEW CREDIT:

  • Call the police department at the non-emergency number (817) 641-7831 and make an Identity Theft report. In Texas, Identity Theft becomes a crime only when any victim (person or business) suffers a monetary loss. Also, call the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Hotline to notify them and get advice on how to proceed. Notify all three credit reporting bureaus to put a Fraud Alert on your data and immediately request a credit report. You must then advise the credit bureau and the institution making the entry of any specific fraudulent accounts appearing on that report. That institution should send you an affidavit of account/transaction fraud to sign and return to them. Make sure that the Institution who has made entry on the report provides a certified letter to you advising of the removal of the inquiry and or credit established without your knowledge.

OTHER PHONE RESOURCES FOR ADVICE AND INFORMATION

  • Federal Government Information Center (for agency phone numbers)
    1-800-688-9889

ONLINE FRAUD (sweepstakes, lotteries, auctions, etc)

  • Make a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. They will send a report to the city where the victim lives and to the proper jurisdiction where the suspect lives. The appropriate authorities will then be able to investigate the incident.
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center www.ic3.gov