5 Common Holiday Thefts
With traveling over the holidays and packages being delivered and left on porches, holiday season brings more thieves lurking residential areas searching for vacant homes and unattended packages. Thieves will follow delivery trucks waiting for an opportunity to strike. Most online retailers send emails and text messages so purchasers know almost immediately when a package has been delivered. If no one is home during the day, consider having packages delivered to an office address or the home of a trusted friend or neighbor.
Be aware that would-be thieves may also pose as couriers delivering packages or try to solicit donations for charitable causes. Ask for identification and how the funds will be used. If the answer isn’t satisfactory don’t contribute or only donate to well-known organizations.
Christmas trees placed near windows and doors provide would-be thieves with the opportunity to see the gifts that have been placed under the tree. Once all of the packages are wrapped, consider keeping them out of sight until closer to the big day.
Putting inside and outside lights on timers can make it look like someone is home. Always lock doors and windows when leaving the house. Owners who leave a “hidden” key somewhere around the house should consider changing the location or removing it altogether during the holidays.
Fires are also more prevalent around the holidays. Don’t leave candles in a room unattended or near anything flammable like curtains or wrapping paper. Ensure that the Christmas tree has plenty of water so it doesn’t dry out. Use the proper lights for inside and outside, and be careful not to overload extension cords or electrical outlets.
Smart shoppers should approach their cars with their keys in hand, be aware of who is around them, park in well-lit areas, and shop with a friend or other family member. They should also not be distracted by texting or talking on their cell phones so they’re not aware of who may be around them.
Packages left in cars will also attract attention of would-be thieves, so put them in the trunk or place them out of sight in the vehicle. Purses or other valuables should never be left in vehicles.
Store owners hire a lot of extra help during the holidays, but it’s still important to conduct proper screening and background checks of any prospective employees.
Shoplifting also increases during the holidays and more retailers are installing security devices to combat theft – door alarms that can be triggered by security tags on clothing and other items, tethers for high-value articles, and surveillance cameras. Both employees and shoppers should be aware of shoplifters and report any suspicious behavior.
Shoppers should also take extra precautions. Don’t carry a lot of cash and wait until asked to produce a credit card so a nearby thief can’t “shoulder surf” to get account information. Also consider storing credit cards in an RFID-blocking wallet or sleeve to protect thieves from cloning any credit cards.
Female shoppers should keep a close eye on their purses and carry them close to their bodies to make it harder for purse snatchers.
Social media has made it easier for everyone to share aspects of their lives they wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing a few years ago. Don’t advertise shopping trips, travel plans, holiday parties or some of the great “deals” you got while shopping online. Turn off the geo-location services on cell phones when not using the mapping feature to make it harder for thieves to track your movements through social media posts or the phone itself.
When shopping online, use one credit card for purchases and then track the charges either online or on the statement when it arrives. Make sure to use secure websites and log off when completing any purchases. . An address that begins with https:// means the information is encrypted, making it harder for identity thieves looking to steal credit card numbers, passwords or other online identification. Also do not use public Wi-Fi when shopping online since unsecured hotspots can allow hackers to access sensitive information on devices. Also beware of wondering eyes spying on phone screens and trying to steal passwords. Video makes it easy for a thief to replay keystrokes for passwords until he gets the right combination of characters.
The holidays provide a lot of distractions and enterprising thieves will use those opportunities for their gain. Staying alert and taking some basic precautions can help to keep holiday grinches at bay.
Suzanne Brown Insurance Agency
A Texas Independent Insurance Agency with over 40 insurance carriers