It probably goes without saying that many of us are distracted at this time of year. Most of us are trying to wrap up projects at work, meet work deadlines, make travel arrangements, bake, observe religious holidays and go to parties. And, while we are doing all of those things, we are also scrambling to do holiday shopping for family and friends. Because we are distracted and because we are purchasing in much larger quantities than normal, we leave ourselves more vulnerable to crime than at any other time of the year. And, criminals prey on us to their advantage.
So, 10 simple reminders about what to remember while shopping, walking to and from your car and what you do with the purchases are timely:
- Keep your money and your credit cards close to your body. For men, this means moving your wallet to your front pants pocket if you don’t normally carry it there. For women, choose not to carry a purse or place the strap across your chest and hold the bag against your body. NEVER leave a purse, wallet or cell phone in the shopping cart – even if you are only a few feet away. Don’t dangle purchases in your hand while walking.
- Don’t bring all of your credit cards with you. Make copies of your cards (front and back) and have it in a secure place at home. When you are robbed and you are trying to stop thieves from using your cards, you will probably have a very difficult time remembering which cards were in your wallet and, therefore, which ones you need to cancel.
- Be aware of who is nearby and protect your “personal space.” This is a perfect time of year to play to the sympathies of strangers and approaching people who are “in the holiday spirit” to ask for assistance is very common. Although there MAY be a person who has run out of gas and doesn’t have the $5 they would need to buy two gallons of gas to get home, the number of people lying about their circumstances FAR outweighs the truth tellers.
- Put purchases in the trunk. Don’t give a valet access to your trunk.
- Lock your house and your car. Every time. Even if you are “just running inside for a minute.” If you leave home, leave a light on, use a timer and activate your alarm. Every time. Even if you are “just going to the store and will be right back.” Houses and cars are treasure troves for thieves this time of year.
- When making large electronic purchases, be extremely aware of those around you. As you leave the electronics store with that 55 inch television or that new tablet or laptop, you are a walking billboard, advertising what you just purchased. In the store parking lot, load the item quickly. Many people drive directly home with purchases like that (to be safe as they continue shopping), only to be followed home and robbed.
- Credit offers are in abundance at this time of year. Stores WANT you to buy that 4K television and pay for it over time. Be aware at the counter when giving personal information to obtain credit. Do not do so if someone is within earshot. If you are approved, ask for a line of credit only slightly above your purchase price. That way, if someone gets the information, there will be an upper limit on what they might spend. Once, I applied for a credit card at a box store to purchase a printer, but then it was out of stock. An employee took the approval code for my credit account and purchased Madden 2011 and a gaming system. The person was caught, because I was diligent and followed up with the store about their security camera and insisted that it had to have been an employee (which it was), but no one wants to fight that fight unnecessarily.
- When buying online, have a secure connection. That means that once you are at the payment stage that the link should change from HTTP to HTTPS.
- One piece of advice about Facebook, Instagram, tweets, etc.: DO NOT POST you are leaving today for a 10 day vacation in Cozumel or Idaho. Thieves and opportunists mutter, “Thank you very much” after they read something like that. Posts can be viewed by more than your inner circle of friends, family and colleagues. If you need to post the picture of your silly aunt wearing reindeer antlers or a menorah on her head, please don’t identify where you are at the time or that you’re out of town or wait until you get home.
- And a final one about your GPS (either on your cell phone or in your car’s navigation system): don’t put your home address in as a destination. If your car is stolen, the thieves know 1) you’re not at home because they just stole your car from location x and 2) they know right where your home is and how to get there, so they can go there and rob you twice. Put the address of a nearby location (like the Publix down the street or the closest chain drug store). That way, you still get accurate directions to take you home, but a thief would not.
Happy Holidays, of every kind!