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Security TipsSecurity Tips
Business

What's Your Business's Security Scorecard?

The cost of crime against business to the U.S. economy is estimated to be $186 billion dollars annually. Cross-national surveys suggest that retail businesses may have an overall burglary risk that is 10 times greater than the risk faced by households. Given these stats lend new weight to the adage "Crime is big business", company owners are wise to budget for and take an active role in crime prevention.

Losses/costs may be immediate or long-term and often include: expensive repairs and inventory replacement, higher insurance premiums, business interruption and loss of productivity, lower employee morale and reduced property values. Because crime is 'big business', upgrading your company's security is smart business.

If you are on a budget, begin protecting your assets by thinking like a criminal. Titan's first recommendation is to conduct a security audit of your facility or office to assess areas of vulnerability. Take a moment out from planning your next sales pitch and ask yourself, "If someone was going to steal from my company, when, how and what would they take?"

Next, develop a "security scorecard" for your business so that you have a simple yet practical tool to evaluate which upgrades are both cost efficient and effective for your business's particular needs. By reviewing a few simple points from the list below, owners can make drastic security improvements which will defend against unwanted intruders.

  • Points of Entry/Exit: Are windows shatterproof? Doors resistant to force? Quality of locks?
  • Building Visibility: Do you have sight barriers like shrubbery or signage that hide intruder activity from the road?
  • Exterior and Interior Lighting: Decide best placement of lights on motion detectors and timers.
  • Assess Surrounding Neighbors: Is fencing or a patrol guard an option?
  • Conduct Background Checks: Include financial and criminal backgrounds for job candidates.
  • Monitor Visitors: Visitation badges and/or encourage employees to questions strangers walking through your building.

"Historically, as the economy continues to get tougher, crime rates will increase," explains Scott Duchene, President of Titan International Security Services. "When business owners consider loss of income due to business interruption in addition to loss of assets and property damage, investing in security upgrades becomes a wise decision."

Keeping Your Business Safe

How companies experience payment fraud:

  • 91% Checks
  • 28% ACH Debits
  • 18% Consumer Debit/ Credit Cards
  • 7% ACH Credits
  • 6% Wire Transfers
  • Check fraud is one of America's most serious and least prosecuted financial crimes. Average loss is $15,000.

Safety Tips

  • Use High Security Checks which react to chemicals, showing they have been washed.
  • Use Positive Pay, an automated check-matching service that detects bogus checks by keeping bank current regarding checks written and amounts.
  • Bank customers are obligated to discover and report a forged signature on a check within one year or less. If customer fails to do so, banks are not liable.
  • If manually issuing checks, use single strike fabric ribbon which uses ink that is driven into the paper fibers. Most self-correcting typewriters use ribbons made of polymer which can easily be removed simply by rubbing scotch tape over the addressee's name and check amount.
  • Senior executives should not sign annual report. Signatures can be scanned and used on checks, purchase orders, letters of credit, etc.
  • Use a separate "zero balance" bank account for wire transfers and place it on a "no check activity" status.
  • Establish internal control such as, separating accounts payable, accounts receivable and bank function responsibilities. People issuing checks should not be the ones reconciling the account. Promptly reconcile the bank statement upon receipt. Make sure those people adding vendors are not approving vendor invoices. Separate receipts and deposit duties and balance every day.
  • When hiring, conduct background checks and confirm employment dates. Many corporate victims have traced theft to their own mailroom.
  • To prevent ghost employees and altered pay rates, require all changes need supervisory approval and supporting paperwork.
  • All changes to master vendor file should require supervisory approval and supporting documentation with verification of vendor. The vendor review should include a telephone call using a number obtained by an outside directory such as 411. Verify name, address and federal tax ID number.
  • Checks should always be mailed directly to the vendor or payee and not given to requesting department for disbursement. Checks returned by the Post Office should not be returned to the person who processed them.
  • Conduct periodic surprise audits.

 

Home Security Tips

As the holidays quickly approach, we want to alert you to the annual seasonal increase in home burglaries during conventional dinner hours. More than 40% of these invasions found entry through an unlocked door or window. The most common mistake residents make is not activating their home alarm systems. Please remember to activate your alarm even if you are only going out for short periods of time. Additional tips for homeowners to protect their property include:

  • Use timers on lights, radios and television to make your home appear occupied.
  • Advertise your alarm system by using window stickers and/or yard signs.
  • Supplemental security devices such as pressure sensitive mats can be added to each room. These mats are useful and are easily disguised.
  • Sliding glass doors should be secured with commercially available supplemental locks or, at minimum, a one inch thick wood dowel in the lower track.
  • Add motion detection lighting to all corners of your home and check for outages.
  • Secure valuables in a floor or wall safe. Do not install your safe in obvious locations such as, master bedroom closet or study, etc.
  • To eliminate hiding places for criminals who are planning to force their way into your home, trim shrubbery that conceals windows and doors.
  • Apply hurricane/security film to exterior windows and glass doors, especially to sliding glass doors. To insure the glass can not be removed as a sheet, have it professionally installed.
  • Beware of your surroundings and note any unfamiliar persons and vehicles. Don't second guess yourself! If you feel like you should call security, please do so immediately.

Please follow as many of these suggestions as possible. Remember three variables must be present for a crime to occur: desire, ability and opportunity. If we can limit the number of opportunities for criminals, we can significantly reduce the incident of theft in your community.

Home Security Bonus Tips for the Holidays

During a holiday like Thanksgiving, more than 13 million Americans will travel to spend the holiday with friends and family, most leaving their homes empty for opportunistic burglars. To ensure your holiday trip is worry-free, Titan suggests these simple tips to property your property.

  • Remove all home repair or fall-related objects that might allow easy access to your home. For example, ladders used for cleaning out gutters or putting up lights can be used to scale a fence or enter a window.
  • DON'T post travel plans on Facebook, Twitter or MySpace letting people know when you will be out of town.
  • Turn your telephone ringer down so no one outside can hear repeated unanswered rings. Make sure your answering machine message doesn't apply that you are away.
  • Never leave a key hidden outside. Burglars know all the best hiding places.
  • Make sure to have all mail, newspapers and deliveries stopped or picked up by a neighbor or friend.
  • Secure all windows including those upstairs and reduce the chance of easy entry by cutting away tree limbs away from second and third story windows.
  • If your car is parked in the driveway, ask a friend to move it occasionally.
  • Use timers to operate lights
  • Consider installing a Web-cam home security system that allows you to check on your home while you are away.

 

Identity Theft Facts
  • On average, it costs a victim $1,173 and 175 man-hours to get their credit report straightened out.
  • The Nilson Report estimates check fraud losses to be about $20 billion a year.
  • The Federal Trade Commission reported that nearly 15 million Americans have been victims of identity theft, costing consumers $5 billion and banks and businesses $56 billion a year.
  • There are websites that sell Social Security numbers for $49.95. (In nine states, a person's driver's license number is also their social security number.)
  • Visit: www.consumer.gov/idtheft to find out what to do if you have been a victim of identity fraud.

 

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Fraud

Warnings Signs

  • Offer sounds too good to be true.
  • Seller pressures you to act "right away".
  • Guarantees success.
  • Promises unusually high returns.
  • Requires an upfront investment - even for a "free" prize.
  • Buyers who want to overpay you for an item and have you send them the difference.
  • Something just doesn't feel right.

Play it Safe

  • Never click on link inside an email to visit a website, instead typed the address into your browser. Make sure your computer is protected with Internet security software that is updated regularly.
  • Shop only secure websites. The web address should begin with https://. If it doesn't have the "s", it is not a secure site.
  • Avoid using a debit card online. Credit cards have maximum liability of $50 and debit cards can go up to $500 or more.
  • Use a strong password that is complex (over 8 characters long and should include symbols - avoid common words). Always keep your password in a secure place and change passwords every 90 days.
  • Never leave your laptop anywhere you wouldn't leave your baby...in car, gym bag, at a restaurant. Stolen laptops account for nearly 40% of security breaches.
  • Before donating your computer, wipe out all confidential information. This requires special software.
  • Only 2% of reported identity theft occurs through the mail. Report online fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
  • Never give your credit card number or personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call and trust the company.
  • Keep track of your credit cards billing cycles. If a statement doesn't arrive, it may mean a thief changed the mailing address on your account.
  • Your bank will never email or call you for your account number. "Phishers" send spam or pop-up messages claiming to be from a legit organization that you might deal with--for example, a bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message usually says that you need to "update" or "validate" your account information. It might threaten some dire consequence if you don't respond. The message directs you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization's website. They are sending you there to get personal information. Businesses can easily look legit online. If you have doubts, verify with Better Business Bureau.
  • Don't mail checks from home, they can be stolen and washed. Go to the post office.
  • When writing checks, use uni-ball 207 gel pen. Its ink will not dissolve in chemicals.
  • Guard your Social Security number vigilantly. Don't print your Social Security number on your check.
  • Guard your PIN. Shield the keypad when entering in your PIN. Forgers steal wallets and cell phones, then text your spouse asking to be reminded of the PIN number.
  • Foreign lotteries are illegal in the US. You can't win no matter what they say.
  • Retain all receipts, statements and packing slips.
  • Use a micro shredder to destroy confidential documents instead of throwing them away. (Criminals can easily get information from your magazine subscription address box.) Unlike traditional shredders, micro shredded documents cannot be pieced back together.
  • Don't wire money to people you don't know or who claim to know a relative.
  • Be cautious of work-at-home offers.
  • Check your monthly bank statements for charges you don't recognize.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus once a year at annualcreditreport.com.

 

Security Alarm Systems

Why Should I Have a Security Alarm System?

It is debated whether having an alarm system decreases the chances of a burglary. In theory, if a burglar is aware a house has a system, he or she might move on to another home. Even if the alarm system does not keep a burglar from breaking in, the burglar has a tendency to stay a shorter amount of time. This may decrease the number of items stolen and the extent of damage done.

What Should a Security Alarm System Include?

Most systems rely on a combination of contacts placed at doors and windows and motion sensors. Motion sensors, however, do not detect someone until they are already in the house. Motion sensors should NOT be used as the primary means of detection. It is best that all exterior potential points of entry have contacts that sense when they are open. Glass break sensors are also available and recommended.

The basic elements of a standard home security system include:

  • Control Panel: This is the location where the system wiring terminates, the backup battery is located, and where it is connected to the phone lines if it is a monitored system.
  • Keypad: This is where the system is armed and disarmed. Additional keypads can be installed. For example, a keypad can be installed next to the homeowner's bed. If the alarm sounds in the middle of the night and the security system had the capability, the keypad display could indicate which door, window, or motion detector caused the alarm.
  • Siren: A loud siren sounds when there's been a break-in and it also lets an intruder know they've been detected.
  • Inside Motion Detector: Passive infrared, microwave, or photoelectric detectors sense changes in a room caused by human presence. Special motion detectors are available for people who have pets.
  • Door and Window Contacts: Magnetic contacts form a circuit between a door and doorframe or a window and a sill; when the door or window is opened (and the system is on), the circuit is broken and sounds the alarm.
  • A Central Monitoring Station (Company): If the system is monitored, in the event of an alarm, the control panel sends a message over a telephone line to a central monitoring station, which is manned 24 hours a day. After attempting to contact the homeowner, the central monitoring station will contact the police, fire department, or medics. There is usually a monthly fee for this service.

Additional items that can be added to the basic system are:

  • Smoke Detectors are required by many building codes. They can be wired to the security panel. If the smoke detectors go into alarm, the security panel will notify the central monitoring station if smoke is detected.
  • Glass Break Detectors recognize the sound of glass breaking and will sound the alarm.
  • Panic Buttons can be hand-held and should be located in strategic places such as next to beds and doors; just punching the button will send a message to the central monitoring station for help. Homeowners may choose to have the panic button send the alarm as a silent alarm or sound the alarms within the house.
  • Pressure Mats can be placed under rugs and react to pressure from footsteps activating the alarm.
  • Closed circuit TV is a private TV system which allows monitoring and/or recording inside or outside a home.
  • Alarm Screens are special screens for windows that have a special wire woven in the mesh that will activate an alarm when cut or removed.

Costs

The average system, which includes either motion detectors inside the house or sensors around windows and doors, costs about $1,200 plus monthly monitoring fees of less than $25. Many security companies offer the systems for free - in exchange for long-term monitoring contracts.

Monitored System or Unmonitored System?

Monitored Systems contact a monitoring company by telephone. The typical sequence of events is as follows:

  • The security system senses something.
  • The security system waits for 30 to 45 seconds before going into alarm allowing the homeowner a chance to deactivate the system to prevent false alarms.
  • If not deactivated, the security system goes into alarm and sends a message to the monitoring company over telephone lines.
  • The monitoring company receives the message, determines the nature of the alarm and verifies the alarm, generally by placing a phone call to the home. If they do not receive the proper password or do not receive an answer, they call the police.
  • The police receive the monitoring company's call and respond.

Caution: During an alarm situation, the security system "seizes" the phone line to call the monitoring company. If personal safety is at risk when the alarm sounds, a homeowner will be unable to call 911 or call for help by phone while the security system is communicating through the phone line with the monitoring company.

The only way to keep this from happening would be to have more than one telephone line into the house or have a cellular phone available.

Caution: A monitored alarm system that uses the telephone line to communicate with the central monitoring station may have a compatibility problem with digital subscriber line (DSL) high-speed Internet service. This compatibility problem may prevent the security system from operating properly.

The DSL Internet service, because it transmits over the same telephone lines, may prevent the security panel and monitoring service from properly communicating with one another. This may cause alarm notifications to fail and interfere with phone line seizures by the security system.

This compatibility problem can be remedied by using a special filter on the telephone line to the security panel or by using a DSL splitter system. If you have a security system with a central monitoring service and you intend to get or have DSL Internet service, contact your central monitoring service to find out if you have a problem and how to remedy it.

Unmonitored systems typically have on-site alarms and/or flashing lights that indicate the security system has been breached. It relies on neighbors as the eyes and ears to see or hear the alarms and then to call police. Neighbors or passersby should never investigate an alarm themselves.

With an unmonitored system, it is best to have a combination of strobe lights and alarms. They should be located on the street side of the house and in an as-inaccessible spot as possible. Because it can be difficult to determine the location of a siren, it is best to discuss this with your neighbors and to place the siren and flashing light on the house where it can be easily seen.

The advantage of this type of system is that a burglar's primary goal is to gain entrance to the house, remove property, and do so without being noticed. Many burglars will leave once alarms and strobes are activated. The disadvantage to an unmonitored system is it relies on neighbors who may not be at home or may not want to become involved. This system is appropriate for a typical suburban setting but might not work as well for a home out in the country without close neighbors.

How to Choose an Alarm Company

Choosing an alarm company can be confusing and the technology complicated. Here are some suggestions:

  • Check with friends or neighbors for recommendations on reliable companies.
  • Find out how quickly the alarm company will install your system after purchase.
  • See if the company sells systems faster than they can install them.
  • Determine how quickly they respond to requests for service after installation.
  • Ask for references from some of their customers who have required service and call and talk to these people.
  • Ask about warranties.
  • Obtain quotes from at least three different companies.
  • Ask the alarm company what screening they do when hiring their alarm installers and salespeople. You want a company that screens for criminal backgrounds/records, etc.
  • Call your local police department and ask how long it takes them to respond to a home security system alarm. Don't be surprised if the estimated response time is as long as an hour. Also ask if there are any fines for false alarms.
  • Lastly, when comparing prices remember to compare detection coverage and features. The least expensive system could be all you need, or a waste of money. Not all alarms are created equal.

Here are some additional suggestions from the Arizona Burglar & Fire Alarm Association on how to select a security alarm company. (Most of this information would be applicable to other states that have similar registrars and licensing requirements.)

  • Contact several companies. Ask if they are members of the state Burglar & Fire Alarm Association. Most members in these associations agree to maintain a high level of conduct under state and national codes of ethics.
  • Ask each company if it is licensed through the state Registrar of Contractors. Call the Registrar to see if there are any unresolved outstanding complaints.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if any complaints have been filed against the companies.
  • Narrow the field to three or four companies. Arrange an appointment with each company when all members of your household will be present. Be sure to ask for the name of the person who will be calling on you, and verify his or her identification upon arrival.
  • Ask for an inspection, demonstration and a quotation in writing. Also, ask for and check references.
  • Study each contract to ensure you know exactly what you are getting. Consider the merits of leasing vs. buying.

How Do False Alarms Affect Service?

False alarms with security alarm systems are a significant concern. It is estimated between 95 percent and 99 percent of the alarms received are false. Because of this, most police departments require the system, if it alarms remotely by telephone, to first go through a monitoring company.

To combat the false alarm problem, some police departments are imposing fines for false alarms after a specified number of false alarms.

Things to Remember About Security Alarm Systems

Burglars realize most security systems sound inside the house and then the alarm is transferred to remote locations through the telephone lines. Most phone lines are typically exposed on the outside of the house in an easily accessible location where the phone line can be cut. If the telephone line is cut, the security alarm system cannot notify the central monitoring station of the break-in.

If the phone line is run underground until it is inside the home (with the main telephone junction box inside the home), the thief cannot tamper with the telephone line until after he or she has broken in. Having a protected phone line to your house is a good idea whether you have a security alarm system or not.

Burglars learn to adapt to security systems. In New Jersey , some burglars developed a unique break-in method. The burglars would rattle the windows causing the alarm to sound and then hide in the bushes, waiting for the police to arrive. Once the police found nothing and left the location, the burglars would proceed with the break-in.

The problem with security systems is that they don't necessarily stop people from breaking in. The security system is only activated when the burglar has broken into the house. Also, by the time the intruder is detected and someone responds to the alarm, there could be enough time for the intruder to remove items and leave. If the system does not cause visible or audible alarms to flash or sound at the site, or there is no one nearby to see or hear these site alarms, the intruder can leave without being seen.

Remember: Security systems do not prevent thieves from breaking into homes.

A good security plan should include strong window, door, and lock products; good security habits and lifestyles (for example, always locking doors at night or when the house is vacant); and natural surveillance, such as having neighborhood watches.

 

Travel Security Tips

During the holidays many of us travel to visit with family and friends. As always, Titan International is concerned with your security and would like to offer these Travel Safety Tips.

Prior to leaving, make sure your home looks lived in:

  • Use timers to turn lights on and off.
  • Stop delivery of mail and newspapers.
  • Never leave a message on your answering machine that indicates you are away.
  • Leave a detailed itinerary with friends or family.

When staying at a hotel:

  • Never accept a ride from an unmarked hotel shuttle without identification.
  • Ask for a room above the first floor. (Although noisier, rooms near elevators are safer because they are in more heavily trafficked areas.)
  • Never invite strangers to your room or tell them where you are staying.
  • As you enter, immediately secure your hotel room door's privacy lock.

When traveling by car:

  • Only stop at well lit rest areas.
  • As you approach your car, always have your keys in your hand and scan the
  • parking lot for anyone who looks suspicious.
  • Before entering your car, look to make sure that no one is hiding inside.
  • Keep a roadside emergency kit with flares in your trunk.
  • Make sure your cell phone is well charged or travel with a car charger.

By following these tips, you will help protect your family and your property during this holiday season. Always remember, the best advice is to follow your instincts and avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable.

 

Vessel Security Tips

Equipment Identification

Boat owners should mark all equipment when purchased. Many local law enforcement agencies will loan an engraver for this purpose. Engrave a unique identification number and the state's abbreviation in a concealed area. These identification numbers will assist law enforcement officers in tracing stolen merchandise back to the owner.

If your boat was built before 1972, it may not have a hull identification number. Since most registration numbers can be removed easily, it is a good idea to inscribe that registration number onto some unexposed location on the interior of your boat. This works well for backup identification.

Document It

Make a complete inventory of your marine equipment, boat and trailer. In the event of any type of loss, this information will prove invaluable in making a prompt, accurate report for law enforcement and insurance personnel.

Photograph or videotape the interior and exterior of your vessel showing all installed equipment and additional gear. Date and sign the photographs and add any clarifying or identifying messages. Store the photographs in a safe place, not in the boat.

Store It

When securing the vessel, take home as much gear as possible, including TVs, radios. CBs, small outboard engines and other gear. There may be some equipment which must be left on the vessel. Rather than leaving it around the cabin, lock equipment inside when you leave. A secure boat cover would also help. Out of sight, out of mind!

Outboard motors, especially the larger ones, may be impractical to remove. Adding an outboard motor lock can make them more secure.

Trailer-able Boats

Stealing a boat is much easier if a thief can hitch up to your boat on a trailer and drive away. These tips may help.

  • If possible, store the boat and trailer in a locked garage, secured boat-storage facility or mini-storage stall.
  • Boats stored at home may be put in the back or side yard out of sight.
  • Store the boat with the trailer tongue not easily accessible.
  • If storing a boat in an open driveway, carport or open side-lot, park another vehicle or other large object in front of the trailer. Remove one trailer wheel.
  • Store the spare tire in an automobile, truck or secure it to the trailer with a chain and lock.
  • Secure the boat and trailer to a permanent object with a good quality chain and lock.
  • Purchase a good quality trailer hitch lock and use it - even if stored inside.
  • When it is necessary to leave your boat along the shoreline during an extended outing, remove the outboard motor or secure it with a transom lock.

Vessel Security

There are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of vessel theft.

  • Marine Hatch: Marine dealers carry special exterior hatch locks. When fastened with a quality padlock, one of these improves security. Depending on the type of boat, it may be possible to add or substitute hinges for improved security.
  • Forward Hatch: Special interior hatch fasteners, or even a padlock can be added. These should be unlocked when the boat is in use.
  • Windows: For sliding windows, place a length of doweling in the track to prevent the window from being forced open. Locksmiths and hardware dealers also carry a variety of special, small locks and fasteners which can be used to increase the security of other types of windows.

There are many systems which can be installed on boats. Care should be taken to select one designed for marine use -- one that is resistant to water, salt and humidity with a reset function.

Report It

If your boat, trailer or gear is missing, report it immediately to the following groups. Use your written and photographic marine record to give specific and complete information.

  • Local law enforcement agencies.
  • Your insurance company.
  • Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
  • The dock or harbormaster.
  • Neighboring boaters.
  • Local newspapers.

When Buying a Boat

  • Be careful when buying a boat because it could be stolen.
  • Be certain that the boat's description on the title matches the boat you are buying. Check year, make, length and hull identification number.
  • Be sure the model and serial number on an outboard motor have not been removed, tampered with or altered.
  • Be suspicious of a fresh paint job on a late model vessel.
  • When buying a used vessel, try to deal with a reputable marine dealer or a broker licensed by the state.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, there is a good chance that the boat is stolen.

 

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