Staying Safe: How to Handle Threats, Scams, and More

By Krista Hanley, We Are Safer Together LLC ~

Have you ever been in a situation that didn’t feel right, but you didn’t know what to do? I teach safety classes, and I’m constantly thinking of how to keep the people around me safe from verbal, physical, emotional, and financial violence. When a senior friend of mine, let’s call him Ed, was almost the victim of financial fraud recently, I decided to see how a safety framework could apply to his situation.

Here are some basic safety skills we can all use, at any stage of life, to prevent or interrupt violence, including scams. 

  1. Pause and assess what’s happening. Take a moment to take stock of what is going on. What is the situation? What are they doing or saying to you? What do they want? 

  2. What is your intuition telling you about the situation? Does something feel wrong or off? 

  3. Set a boundary. Tell them what you need to change. Try phrases like, “No, this isn’t right,” “I can’t talk,” “Back off!” “No!” All these can be useful to say, depending on the situation. Otherwise, can you just leave? What are your ways out?

  4. Find help and safety. What are the things or people you can use to help you with this situation? Ask a bystander for help or get in touch with authorities or management. 

Let’s apply the above to the situation when Ed had a popup message on his computer that said he has a virus.

Pause and assess. When we are assessing what is happening, it can be easy to let a sense of urgency influence us. It doesn’t take long to pause and ask yourself, what is going on? Answering this, Ed might have thought, I have a message that says I have a virus, and the people on the line want my bank account information. 

Intuition. Ed did trust himself in the end, before giving up private financial information. In order for our intuition to really work for us, we have to train ourselves to trust it. That means listening to that little voice that says, “This isn’t right.” If we are having trouble listening to our intuition, you can ask yourself, Is this the usual way things are done? For Ed, he might have thought about how his computer issues were always solved by taking the computer in for a trusted tech to look at it, not by calling a number and giving someone access to his bank accounts.

Boundary. We don’t have to stick around when people are making us uncomfortable. We can say something when someone is hurting our feelings or being unsafe. Ed hung up the phone when he realized it was a scam. 

Help and safety. It’s important we find trusted people who can help us. Help can look like a lot of different people, from the bagger at the store who can put your groceries in your car, to a neighbor who can check on you if they haven’t seen you in a couple days. Ed called his assistant who helped him renew his anti-virus software and reset his bank passwords. He is committed to be more cautious about scams in the future. 

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