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This holiday season, don't let the spirit of giving lull you into giving burglars, muggers, nor pickpockets a chance to do their dirty work. Criminals love the holidays as much as everyone else, chiefly because it's a perfect opportunity to commit a crime. Keep these tips in mind for a safe and happy holiday season.
If you are traveling...
- Set an automatic timer for your lights.
- Ask your neighbor to watch your home, shovel the walks, pickup the newspapers, collect mail, and park in the driveway from time to time.
- Be sure to hide any gifts that may be left in the house while you are gone.
If you are out for the evening...
- Turn on lights and a radio or the TV so it appears that someone is home.
- Lock all doors and windows while you are out, even if you will be gone for just a few minutes.
- Do not place packages or gifts near windows or in other high-visibility sites.
If you are shopping...
- Do not let your guard down just because you are rushing.
- Stay alert and be aware of everything around you at all times.
- Park in well-lighted spaces and as close to the store as possible, lock your car doors, and hide packages in the trunk or under the seats.
- Do not carry large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card if possible.
- Make sure that you do not carry all your packages at the same time.
- Carry your purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pockets.
- If you take your children shopping, teach them to go to a police officer, store security guard, or store employee if they get separated or get lost.
If a stranger comes to the door...
- Stay alert to suspicious-looking couriers delivering packages to you or your neighbors.
- Many con artists take advantage of holiday generosity by going door-to-door. Ask for identification and get the specifics to how and where the donations will be spent/used.
- If you feel uncomfortable, just say "no thank you" and shut the door or do not open the door at all. See where the stranger goes and if they look suspicious call the police and report it.
If you are at home...
- Turn on outside lights to deter burglars.
- Report any suspicious behavior to the police or local community watch groups.
- Make sure your homeowners (or renters) insurance is up to-date and everything is inventoried properly.
Online Shopping Safely...
- Shop with companies you know.
Anyone can set up an online shop under almost any name. If you are not familiar with the merchant, ask for a paper catalog to get a better idea of their merchandise and services. Also be sure to determine a company's return and refund policies before making your purchase.
- Keep your password private.
Never give your password to anyone. Avoid using a birthday or a portion of your social security number. If possible, use a combination of letters and numbers.
- Use a secure browser.
This is the software you use to navigate the internet. Your browser should comply with all industry security standards. These standards encrypt or scramble purchase information you send over the internet. Most computers have a browser installed. Some browsers may be downloaded from the internet free of charge.
- Pay by credit card.
If you pay by credit card, your transaction will be protected by the fair credit billing act. Under this law, you have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them.
Have the phone number of your credit card provider available in case the credit card information is stolen or the card itself is stolen.