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Police chief tells how to protect yourself, parents against scammers, thieves

Photo Credit: TOP: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia
Photo Credit: TOP: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia
Photo Credit: TOP: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia

PUBLIC SAFETY: Another Bergen County police chief has joined the growing chorus of those warning citizens to beware of phone scams — particularly those targeting elderly victims.

Fairview Police Chief Thomas Juliano said his department “has received complaints from several residents that they have been contacted over the phone by individuals posing as government agencies or collection agencies attempting to collect funds.”

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If a caller asks for money, hang up and call police, Juliano said. NO LEGITIMATE OPERATION requests money by phone — not even charities.

The chief also warned of people going door-to-door “posing as utility workers asking to read meters or check the utility lines.”

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If someone comes to the door and you’re not 100% sure of who they are or what they want, ask them to wait — then immediately call police.

If the person is a genuine utility worker, he or she will understand.

Police don’t mind either, Juliano said. It’s what they do.

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If you have elderly parents, be sure to tell them this.

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The chief offered other tips:

Never give any personal information over the phone — that means bank information, Social Security numbers, birth dates anything else that can allow criminal access to your accounts or personal records;

Always ask for identification when someone comes to your door claiming to work for the water company, gas company or other utility or concern.
All utility companies require their workers to wear PHOTO IDs. If you have even the slightest doubt, call police;

Notify police whenever you are leaving your home for an extended period. They will then pay extra attention to the area. Also: Arrange with a family member, friend or neighbor to remove bills, letters and such from your mailbox and to take in any packages you receive. Suspend any newspaper subscriptions;

Juliano also urged citizens to burglar-proof their homes:

  • Make sure all doors and windows are secure, especially in back; use window stops (you can always pop them out when you’re home on a comfortable day);
  • Clear windows and doors of any bushes, trees or shrubs so that you, your neighbors — and, if necessary, police — can see them;
  • Deadbolts are a no-brainer, but only if the screws are at least a couple of inches long. Otherwise, a kid could kick your door in;
  • If you don’t have motion detector lighting outside, consider it; if you do, make sure it’s working properly — and don‘t have it close enough to the ground that someone could unscrew the bulb;
  • Lock away ladders, other types of boosters or tools lying around the outside of the house;
  • Set lights, televisions and radios on timers;
  • DO NOT KEEP VALUABLES in obvious places: The first, and sometimes only, destination of any burglar is the master bedroom;
  • Inventory your valuables with photos or videos, put the disc in a safe place — and, please, make sure you use an innocuous label (“Billy’s Birthday” will do just fine). It could help police but also comes in handy when you notify your insurance company;
  • Lock your car, even when it’s in your driveway.

One of the most tried-and-true burglar deterrents is a dog. Doesn’t matter what kind, either: A burglar doesn’t want to be noticed or spend time trying to get in.

Also keep in mind that burglars use computers, too, so don’t announce anywhere that you’re going away for any length of time — or even the activities you have planned for the day. Wait until after you’re home to tell people what you did.

Finally: Make sure your house number can be seen clearly from the street at any time of day, just in case you need police, fire or ambulance service.

For businesses:

  • Install a security/alarm system with a cellular back-up. If you have an alarm system, always set it at the close of business.
  • Consider installing a video surveillance system. Ensure that the cameras are properly positioned and that the recording system is separately secured or, ideally, backed-up at an off-site location.
  • Lighting is one of the best ways to combat a burglary.
  • Install motion-sensor lights on the rear and sides of your business and position them in out-of-reach places so they can’t be easily disabled by a would-be thief.
  • Keep outside lights (timer lights or steady-on lights) illuminated throughout the entire night as long as they don’t interfere with nearby homes.
  • Consider installing covers over exterior lights and power sources to deter tampering.
  • Light the inside of your business, especially around doors, windows, skylights, or other entry points.
  • All outside or security doors should be metal-lined and secured with metal security crossbars. Pin all exposed hinges to prevent removal. Make sure every external door has at least one sturdy, well-installed deadbolt.
  • Always lock all doors, roof hatches, and windows – including those on the second floor.
  • Keep ladders, garbage cans, building supplies and tools locked up out of view so you don’t provide a would-be burglar with the means to break into your business.
  • Clear excess equipment and trim shrubs near the building so they do not provide hiding places for an intruder. Remove/trim limbs that could allow someone to climb to an upper story window.
  • Keep your cash register in plain view from the outside of your business, so it can be monitored by police during the day or at night. Leave it open and empty after closing.
  • Empty tip jars and remove valuables from outside view.
  • Utilize a safe for money and valuables and make sure that it is fireproof and securely anchored. Leave it open when it’s empty. Remember to change the combination when an employee who has had access to it leaves your business.

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    PHOTO, TOP: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia

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