Campus safety awareness: Theft prevention tips

Campus safety awareness: Theft prevention tips

September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month. The University of St. Thomas Public Safety Department is sponsoring information tables, a poster series, other events, and safety tips and precautions, like those listed below. This week, the focus is on preventing theft.

Did you know?
The Allstate Insurance Company has come up with a list of the top five possessions most commonly stolen from college and high-school students. The list consists of what the company calls “high-dollar, easy-to-grab items that are hard to recover,” and it represents the items for which Allstate receives the most claims. The five items are:

  • Band instruments
  • Data-processing devices such as laptops and PDAs
  • Sports equipment
  • MP3 players and accessories
  • Digital cameras

Your Residence
Always lock your door when you leave and when you are inside and not paying attention to your door (sleeping, in the shower, etc). It only takes eight seconds for a thief to walk in and take valuable items from your space. Make arrangements with your roommate(s) to make sure they lock the door, also.

Especially in off-campus housing, be sure to latch windows when you will be gone or sleeping. Many break-ins are crimes of opportunity where the victim could have taken precautions that would have deterred the criminals.

Identity Theft
Identity theft is when a criminal takes personal information about you and seeks to open financial accounts in your name, and may cause harm to your credit, savings, or your criminal or driving record. Identity thieves look through trash, pretend to be financial institutions online to get your information, and may get information from a stolen wallet or purse. 

There are things you can do to protect yourself. Shred your financial documents if you don't file them. Guard your Social Security and account numbers, and keep your passwords secret and hard to guess. Don't respond to unsolicited e-mails, keep your anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software up to date, and only use your credit card at reputable Web sites. 

The law states that you are eligible to receive a free copy of your credit report each year. Get it, and check that there are no unknown hits on it. Pay attention to when bills should be arriving, and question companies about them when they don't arrive on time. 

If you believe you have been victimized, place a Fraud Alert with the three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax 1-800-525-6285, Experian 1-888-397-3742, TransUnion 1-800-680-7289). Close any financial accounts that have been created by the thieves, and file a police report so those companies can verify that a crime was committed. 

Be sure to properly lock your bike whenever you park it. Use a sturdy lock, preferably a hardened case U-lock because they are much more difficult to cut through than chain or cable locks. Lock the frame to a secure rack, and also lock any wheels or other parts that come off with quick-release devices. Thieves may take a wheel from one bike and the frame of another if they are improperly secured, leaving the owners with only parts of their bikes, but the thief with a complete bike.

When on campus, only park bikes in designated bike rack areas and lock them to racks. Unauthorized bike parking may result in impounding of the bicycle by Public Safety. Since January of 2006, eight bicycles have been reported stolen from campus property. In all cases the owner either did not lock the bike or the thief cut through an insufficient lock.

Public Areas
Don’t walk away from your backpack or laptop computer in a public area, ever. Even if it looks like no one is around you in the library, it only takes a few seconds for a thief to grab your stuff and walk away with it. If you have to get up, take your things with you or leave them with a trusted friend who won’t leave until you return.

When using the gym, do not leave your clothes in an unsecured area (such as the hallway outside the room where you’re working out). Purchase or rent a lock and locker and use it, or bring your bag with you into the gym. Never leave valuables behind, even in a locked locker.