Playing it Safe

Check ATMs and retail terminals for fraudulent card readers before inserting your card  |  photo and post by Larry Clinton

On May 15, Sausalito Village hosted a community safety forum led by Officer Sean Smagalski of the Sausalito Police Department.

Here are some of the tips shared by officer Smagalski and members of the audience:

  • The most common crimes in Sausalito are property crimes. Violent crime is minimal, but personal safety should always be a concern. If you are aware and alert, you will avoid most crime before it ever occurs. Being attentive also raises your confidence level, lowers your fear and promotes a happier, healthier life.
  • Since vehicle burglary was downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor there has been an explosion of vehicle break-ins. Officer Smagalski advised removing containers and bags from view; even an empty bag might look tempting to a thief. If there is no temptation, the thief will typically move along to the next car. Money, phone charging cords, GPS and Fastrak devices are also tempting targets. The best strategy is to have your vehicle clean and devoid of all property. “Like it was for sale,” as officer Smagalski put it.
  • When using an ATM, be aware of who is around you. If someone stands behind you while you are operating the machine, block their view of the keypad and screen with your body. A common theft strategy is called “shoulder surfing”, which means the suspect will try to look over your shoulder to observe you entering your PIN code, checking your balance, etc.
  • Confident behavior can be a deterrent since thieves are looking for a low-risk advantage.
  • A common theft strategy is to place a fraudulent card reader on top of the legitimate one. These replica covers capture debit card data as the card is being read by ATM or retail terminals. Shake or tug on the mechanism before using. Place your cash in your wallet or pocket as soon as it’s dispensed, then get back in your car and lock it. Exposed cash is a signal to thieves that you are not paying attention and are an easy victim.
  • Pepper spray is a non-lethal deterrent, good from 7-9 feet, but be sure you know how to use it (follow instructions). Threaten the perpetrator first, and if that doesn’t scare him off, then spray his eyes. Pepper spray is available at hardware and sporting goods stores and online.

Next week we’ll offer tips on how to foil phone scams and email fraud.