“My friends usually walked me home after dark. But one evening I was so tired that I decided to call a taxi.
“The driver didn’t take me home. Instead, he drove me to an abandoned field, where he tried to rape me. I screamed with all my might, and he backed off. When he came toward me again, I screamed and ran.
“In the past I had often thought, ‘How can screaming help?’ But I’ve learned that it works!”—KARIN.*
IN MANY lands, crime is an ever-present danger. For example, in one country a judge stated: “The sad reality is that it’s not if, but when, you will become a victim.” In other places, crime may be less common. Even so, it is unwise to become complacent, for complacency can lead to vulnerability.
Whether you live in a high-crime or a low-crime area, how can you make life safer for you and your loved ones? One practical step you can take is to heed this principle found in the Bible: “The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get into trouble.” (Proverbs 22:3, New Century Version) Indeed, police authorities advocate the taking of preventive measures—avoiding crime in the first place.
Physical injury and material loss are not the only consequences of crime. Many victims also suffer lasting mental and emotional harm. How important, then, that we do what we reasonably can to increase our safety! With that goal in mind, consider how you can take steps to protect yourself from four kinds of crime—robbery, sexual assault, cybercrime, and identity theft.
What is it? Robbery is theft using force or threats of force.
How does it affect people? After a string of armed robberies in Britain, a prosecutor observed that although the victims suffered no physical harm, all suffered mental anguish. “Several of them report ongoing anxiety and sleep difficulties,” she said, “and virtually all of them say that their daily working lives have been gravely affected by what they experienced.”
What can you do?
Be aware. Thieves are opportunists. They like to prey on the unsuspecting. So watch the people who are watching you, be aware of your surroundings, and do not dull your senses or impair your judgment by overdrinking or misusing drugs. “When a person is drinking alcohol or using drugs,” it is harder for him “to think clearly and evaluate a potentially dangerous situation,” says a health encyclopedia.
Protect your property. Secure your vehicle and the doors and windows of your home. Never admit a stranger. Keep valuables out of sight; do not flaunt them. “Wisdom is with the modest ones,” says Proverbs 11:2. Thieves—including desperate children—often target people who parade expensive jewelry and electronics.
Seek advice. “The way of the foolish one is right in his own eyes, but the one listening to counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15) If you are traveling, heed the advice of informed locals, including the authorities. They can point out places to avoid and show you how to protect yourself and your belongings.
What is it? Sexual assault is not limited to rape but includes other forms of sexual contact involving threats, force, or intimidation.
How does it affect people? “The saddest thing is [that] it doesn’t just affect you while you’re being abused,” explains a rape victim. “It stays with you and haunts you for a long time and changes your outlook on life. It also changes the lives of your loved ones.” Of course, the victim is not responsible for the sexual assault. The aggressor bears that responsibility.
What can you do?
Do not ignore your feelings. “If a place or person makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy—leave,” advises a police department in North Carolina, U.S.A. “Don’t let anyone convince you to stay if your instincts are telling you otherwise.”
Act confidently; be focused. Sexual predators hunt for the unsuspecting and vulnerable. So walk confidently and stay alert.
What is it? Cybercrime refers to crime conducted online. It includes tax and welfare fraud, credit card fraud, and the nondelivery of purchases. It also includes scams, such as fraudulent investments and online auctions.
How does it affect people? Cybercrime costs the victims—and society as a whole—billions of dollars. Consider an example. Sandra received an e-mail that she assumed was from her bank asking her to update her online banking details. Minutes after sending her personal particulars, she was alarmed to see that $4,000 (U.S.) had been transferred from her account to a foreign bank. Sandra quickly discovered that she had been scammed.
What can you do?
Be wary! Do not be fooled by professional-looking Web sites, and keep in mind that legitimate financial institutions will not ask you to e-mail highly confidential information. Before buying or investing online, ascertain the company’s reputation. “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps,” says Proverbs 14:15. And be cautious when dealing with companies located in foreign lands. If problems arise, it can be harder to resolve them.
Analyze a company and its policies. Ask yourself: ‘What is the company’s physical address? Is the phone number correct? Will my purchase involve hidden costs? When will my order be delivered? Can it be returned or refunded?’
Be suspicious if an offer looks too good to be true. The greedy and those who want something for nothing are prime targets for online thieves. The bait may include big money for minimal work, a loan or credit card even though you may have a poor credit rating, or large returns on “low-risk” investments. “Take your time in evaluating the legitimacy of any investment offer,” says the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). “The higher the promised return, the higher the risk. Don’t let a promoter pressure you into committing to an investment before you are certain it’s legitimate.”
What is it? Identity theft involves illegally obtaining and using information about someone else’s personal identity in order to commit fraud or some other crime.
How does it affect people? Thieves may use your identity to obtain credit cards or loans or to open new accounts. Then they rack up debts in your name! Even if you eventually get the debts canceled, your financial reputation may remain tarnished for years. “Having a zero credit rating affects everything—it’s even worse than having money taken,” says a victim.
What can you do?
Protect sensitive information. If you bank or shop online, change your passwords regularly, especially if you have used a public computer. And as mentioned earlier, be highly suspicious of e-mails requesting sensitive personal information.
Identity thieves do not use computers only. They try any means they can to get their hands on important documents, such as bank statements, checkbooks, credit cards, and social security numbers. So keep these things safe, and shred all sensitive documents before discarding them. Of course, if you suspect that a document has been lost or stolen, report this immediately.
Keep track of your accounts. “Awareness is an effective weapon against . . . identity theft,” states the FTC, adding: “Early detection of a potential identity theft can make a big difference.” So check your accounts regularly, and look out for unusual transactions. If possible, get a copy of your credit report from a reputable agency, and note the accounts and credit cards linked to your name.
Of course, in today’s world there are no guarantees. Even the most cautious individuals have become victims of crime. That said, we always benefit from adhering to the wisdom and understanding found in the Bible. “Do not leave it, and it will keep you. Love it, and it will safeguard you.” (Proverbs 4:6) Better still, the Bible promises an end to crime.
Soon, an End to Crime
Why can we be confident that God will do away with crime? Consider the following:
God wants to end crime. “I, Jehovah, am loving justice, hating robbery along with unrighteousness.”—Isaiah 61:8.
He has the power to stop crime. “He is lifted high with power. And He is right and fair and good.”—Job 37:23, New Life Version.
He has promised to destroy the wicked and preserve the righteous. “Evildoers themselves will be cut off.” “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 37:9, 29.
He has promised his loyal ones a peaceful new world. “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:11.
Do those words touch your heart? If so, please take the time to examine the Bible to learn more about God’s purpose for mankind. No other book is so rich in practical wisdom. And no other book gives us a genuine hope for a crime-free tomorrow.*
Names have been changed.
Most victims of sexual assault know their attacker. For further information, see “How Can I Protect Myself From Sexual Predators?” on page 228 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 1. This book is accessible online at www.jw.org.
More information on important Bible teachings can be found in the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? Get a free copy from Jehovah’s Witnesses, or read it online at www.jw.org.