Safety challenge: how to prevent 5 common crimes

Car theft, financial fraud and Internet crimes are on the rise--and things may get worse over the next decade. A guide to outsmarting today's criminals.
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How to avoid identity theft

If headlines about decreasing crime rates have tempted you to lower your guard, it might be time to check your dead bolts. After dropping steadily throughout the '90s, crime appears to be on the upswing. In the first six months of last year, there were increases in car theft, rape and aggravated assault (crimes in which a person is seriously injured or a weapon is used in an attack), according to the FBI. Also becoming more common: identity theft, credit-card fraud and Internet-related crimes.

The situation may soon worsen. The generation now entering their late teens and early 20s-the most crime-prone years-is the largest since the baby boomers. And if the economy continues to weaken, unemployment and financial stress could breed new criminals.

But the news isn't all bad. Today, experts have a better understanding of what causes crime and are using more effective prevention programs, such as the "personal beat" system, in which police officers are assigned to monitor specific neighborhoods, as opposed to rotating neighborhoods, according to Jean O'Neil, director of research and evaluation at the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), in Washington, D.C. Still, we can't rely entirely on law enforcement to protect us. "We all play a role in making our communities safe," she says.

So LHJ teamed up with Court TV to offer the latest advice on protecting your family. Would you know what to do if you were a crime victim? Take our quiz and see how you fare.--Sharlene K. Johnson


A representative from a collection agency calls about an unpaid bill from a credit-card company with whom you have no account, and you tell the caller she's made a mistake. When she asks you to verify the Social Security number on the account, the number she reads is yours. Alarmed, you:

A. Ask her to send you copies of the charges so that you can dispute them.

B.Contact all three major credit-reporting agencies to check your credit reports for errors, then call the police.

C.Close the account. Request copies of the original credit application and billing statements so you have documentation of the charges.

Continued on page 2:  Answer: Identity theft


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