People have a lot on their minds this time of year — presents to buy, meals to plan, trips to book. All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave you, your wallet and your home vulnerable. These easy-to-follow tips can help keep this time of year merry and bright.
With the holidays fast approaching, this time of year has people spending like crazy both in stores and online. Whether you are swiping a credit card or paying in cash, keep yourself and your bank accounts safe.
First, keep the amount of available cash you have at a minimum or separate it into different pockets or locations on or about your person. This way all of it is not lost if your purse or wallet is misplaced or stolen.
If you can go without carrying a purse or wallet, do so; they are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas, transportation terminals, bus stops, on buses and other rapid transit.
Credit cards offer convenience and security, however, be sure to keep track of all cards and keep receipts to compare to your monthly statement. If you usually only check your statement once a month, that gives a credit card thief 30 days to wreak havoc on your account. Check your statement as frequently as you can. Specifically, keep an eye out for suspicious, small amounts. Many thieves may test your card by making easy-to-overlook purchases first. For a very interesting read on how the mind of a credit card thief works, check out this article, “Secrets of a Former Credit Card Thief.”
While it may be less crowded and more convenient to shop during evening hours, there are also additional potential risks involved. You should park in areas that have adequate lighting, keeping in mind this time of year the sun sets around 5 p.m. Also, consider shopping with someone instead of going alone. Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Just because there are people around does not mean that you are safe. Always scan your immediate area and focus on your personal safety and the safety of those with you. Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings. Report suspicious people or activity to law enforcement immediately!
If possible, leave small children at home with a trusted babysitter. If you have to bring the little ones with you, teach them to stay close to you at all times, to go to a store clerk or security guard to ask for help if they get separated from you and to tell you immediately if a stranger is bothering them.
Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom or car. Make sure your child knows their full name, address and telephone number to give to the police or mall security.
When it’s time to head home, have your keys ready before getting to your car so you do not have to search for them while standing near it. However, don’t electronically unlock your vehicle until you are within close proximity of the vehicle and you can easily see it. This helps stop a thief from getting into the car and waiting to strike when you least expect it.
Keep a secure hold on your purse and shopping bags, do not put them down or on top of your car in order to open the door or trunk.
Before you head out of town, create an up-to-date home inventory including make, model, serial numbers, other detailed descriptions, and photographs of items of value (including jewelry). This inventory should be kept somewhere safe, out of the house. Valuable items, such as televisions, stereos, and computers should be inscribed with an identifying number unique to its owner, like the last four digits of your social security number, but do not use the entire number!
A vacant-looking house is a major vulnerability. At least two light timers should be set to turn the lights and TV on and off in a logical sequence when away for an extended time period to give the appearance that someone is home. Contact the Sterling Heights Police Department (586-446-2801) to request extra patrols of your residence while you are out of town. Let us know the dates you’ll be gone and if anyone has keys to your home.
Piles of newspapers, packages and mail, and unshoveled driveways are telltale signs no one has been home. Make arrangements with a trusted neighbor or friend to pick up the items, clear the snow, or stop your delivery services.
From the entire Sterling Heights Police Department, we wish you a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!