Careful forethought and preparation can help ensure your safety at home and while you’re out. Here are some ideas about how you can stay safe.
- Stay informed. Learn about the crime rates in your area. Sign up for notifications and safety alerts.
- Put important phone numbers on speed dial. Program the local or campus police contact information into your phone. Keep a number for a cab or safe ride in your phone. Many colleges offer free safe-ride services, especially at night.
- Ride safely. Whenever a stranger is driving you, pay attention. Make sure you get in the right car and watch where you’re going.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Walk assertively and avoid walking alone at night. Have your phone easily accessible, but don’t be focused on the screen.
- If you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, don’t drive yourself. Get a ride from a safe-ride service, cab, bus or sober friend.
- If you live on a school campus, know the locations of emergency call phones (they tend to be blue).
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, something is probably wrong. Change what you’re doing and get to a more secure location.
- Know your route before you go for a jog, walk or drive somewhere. If walking or jogging, pick a path with high visibility. Report any suspicious activity immediately.
- It’s OK to ask a group of people to walk with you if you think you’re being followed. You can also walk into any store or restaurant.
- Know your neighbors.
- Don’t keep spare keys hidden near your door. Instead, leave them with a friend or neighbor you trust. If you need to leave a key at your place, consider a lockbox on a side or back door.
- Don’t prop open any apartment or dorm doors. People entering should have a key to get in. Don’t let strangers into your building if they don’t have a key or access card.
- Always lock your door, even if you’re coming right back or just taking your dog on a quick walk.
- If you’re going away, lock all windows and doors, close window curtains and set a timer for lights so that it appears you’re home.
- Keep sliding doors blocked by placing a pole in the sliding track to keep doors from opening wide enough for a person to get in.
- When moving in or out of a place, minimize theft by keeping all boxes, furniture and suitcases in a visible or locked area. Also, lock the door every time you step out (and always take your keys with you).
- When parking, put possessions in the trunk or in a place that’s not visible.
- Make sure your car has enough gas or electricity.
- Bring a (fully charged) cell phone with you in case you need to call for help.
- Call a tow truck for a lift if your car breaks down. Never take a stranger’s offer to help.
- If you hit something, park your car and check out the situation. You may need to call for help or leave insurance information.
- Always park in a safe, well-lit area.
- Make sure your brakes work. You may need to get them fixed at a bike shop.
- When riding at night, attach a light to your bike so cars can see you.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Know your state's laws. Some states require you to register your bike. If it's registered, keep this record. It can be used to file a police report if your bike is lost or stolen.
- Obey traffic laws. Ride on the right-hand side. Pedestrians have the right of way.
- Be aware of potential cars when riding by driveways or parking lots.
- Lock your bike. Lock both the rear wheel and frame to a bike rack. You may wish to lock the front wheel to the frame to prevent wheel theft.
- Mail — You don’t want your personal information to get into the wrong hands. Rather than putting outgoing mail in your home mailbox, use postal service mailboxes, especially for bill payments. If you’re out of town, have the post office hold your mail until you get back.
- Internet — When making an online purchase, use a secure site and reputable seller. Use a credit card rather than a debit card. Use antivirus software and firewalls to protect your computer.
- Shred — Destroy all documents that have financial or personal information. This includes credit applications, insurance forms and bank statements.
- Don’t give out your Social Security Number (SSN) when you can avoid it. Don’t put your SSN on checks or credit receipts. You can usually give a business an alternate set of information if they ask for a SSN.
If identity theft does happen:
- Contact the three major credit bureaus and have them place a fraud alert on your file.
- Close all accounts that may have been accessed.
- File a police report and give a copy to the credit bureaus for proof of the incident.
Reviewed by: Jen Hawkins, MPH
Last Reviewed: December 2019