Ingram advises extra vigilance to stop crime

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

With October being National Crime Prevention Month, Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram advises citizens to be extra vigilant in order to protect themselves and their neighborhoods.

According to Ingram, one group who is vulnerable to frauds and scam artists is senior citizens.

“One social security scam that senior citizens need to be aware of will have at least two people working together who come to the door and identify themselves as being with the social security administration,” Ingram said. “While one person is talking to the resident, the other person is stealing from inside the house.”

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Also, there are people who may approach seniors and present themselves as officers of a banking institution.

After explaining that they are investigating a crooked bank employee, they may ask for a withdrawal of cash in order to further aid their investigation.

In addition, Ingram said that seniors should be very cautious with people who offer to pave their driveways, do roof repairs, or attempt to persuade them that other home repairs are needed.

“Some scam artists will offer to crawl under your house to check for needed repairs,” Ingram said. “Then, they’ll say that your house needs to be jacked up and leveled for $1,800 or your floor will fall in, for example. Be aware that it’s probably a scam. Ask them to wait until you call the Greenville Police Department to check them out, and if they are legitimate, they won’t mind waiting on you.”

When it comes to telemarketing scams, Ingram said that everyone should be cautious of anyone asking for credit card numbers, bank account numbers or pin numbers for credit cards.

“If someone calls and asks for a donation for survivors of police officers and firefighters from Butler County who have died in the line of duty, hang up,” he said.

Offering to sell magazines is another phone scam that citizens should be aware of. Ingram said that the caller will attempt to lure the person into a contract by getting the person to say, “Yes,” then using that taped version to bind someone to a 36 or 48-month magazine contract.

Most everyone’s awareness has been heightened to identity theft recently, but Ingram said that there are specific precautions everyone can take.

“People need to shred and destroy all personal information before placing it in the garbage because identity thieves will go through your trash looking for it,” he said. “Use a shredder if you have one, or rip it into small pieces before throwing it away.”

Also, people should be very careful when giving their credit card information on the telephone or on the Internet. He said that true credit card companies would not ask for pin numbers.

Another vulnerable group in the community is children. Ingram said that sexual predators would especially target young people on the Internet.

“Sexual predators and pedophiles will entice kids to meet them face to face,” he said. “Parents need to be very aware of the people their children are chatting with.”

According to Ingram, parents can install certain safeguards on their computer so they can view what websites have been visited and what has been done on the computer. Also, parents can place the computer in a centrally located room, such as the kitchen or family room so that they can view the screen at all times.

When it comes to the magnetic nameplates that many people have on their vehicles, Ingram said that these are “walking advertisements” for pedophiles.

“If a sexual predator uses the child’s first name when trying to talk to him, it makes the child feel a sense of safety with that person, and makes the child more likely to leave with him,” Ingram said. Objects such as lunchboxes or jackets with the child’s name on it can make them a much bigger target for sexual predators as well.

There are many women who travel alone or who have to travel long distances on their job. Ingram said that women should never leave a purse or wallet or anything else of value in plain view on the front seat of a vehicle, especially after they have gotten out of the car. This invites criminals to “smash and grab” the valuables from the vehicle.

“Women who are traveling alone should always keep the doors locked and should remember to park near the front door of a store or under bright parking lot lights,” Ingram said. “If it feels like something is not right or that someone is following you, go back inside the store and get someone to escort you to your car.”

When traveling on the interstate, he said that women should be very cautious if they are approached by a plain, unmarked vehicle with blue lights flashing on the dash.

“If the blue lights are not on the top of the car, then drive to the next exit and stop at a well-lit place where there are plenty of people around,” Ingram said.

Being very observant, looking out for neighbors and watching for suspicious behavior in the neighborhood are just some of the things that everyone can do to protect themselves from scam artists and from possible criminal behavior. Ingram said that everyone, young and old, should know to call 911 and the Greenville Police Department to report any suspicious activity or if they need help.