These are the typical starting days for the upcoming Christmas buying season. I don’t know about you, but I’m already seeing Christmas presents, sales and decorations in the stores, and we’re still nearly 2 weeks away from Thanksgiving!
If the shopping is starting earlier, the criminals will start earlier as well. Think of it as, “opening day” for the criminal element to ramp up their efforts to separate you from your goods or cash.
Remember, the criminal efforts are not restricted to brick-and-mortar stores – the online criminals and identity thieves are especially busy this time of year.
What are the characteristics of a criminal? In general, some of their traits are:
- Constantly seeking low-risk criminal opportunities
- Overconfidence in their ability to “scam” the system
- Masking themselves with a facade of conformity (blending in to appear non-threatening and innocent)
Obviously, they have a plan. Do you?
You don’t want to be perceived as the, “low hanging fruit” – the targets that are most easily victimized. You want to “harden” your defenses so the bad guys will go elsewhere.
Holiday crime prevention lands squarely on your shoulders.
The following are just a few of the suggestions and techniques I teach in our various Safety Awareness workshops –
If you follow these three simple suggestions, you will eliminate the vast majority of online scam vulnerabilities:
Never provide personal information over the phone unless you called a phone number you are absolutely certain is a valid number. No legitimate business will contact you asking for PINs, codes or passwords – they already have that information!
Never enter credit card numbers or other personal information online unless the website page you’re entering the information is secure – https:// versus http://
Don’t click email links unless they’re from vendors you authorized to send you online coupons or offers.
Be alert. This is the number one way to stay safe. Look for people that are watching or following you. When approaching your car, sweet your eyes close distance, medium distance and final destination. Know what is ahead!
If you see shady characters near your car, go back to the store and ask for an escort. Trust your gut on this. The stores DO NOT want their customers getting mugged!
When approaching your car in the parking lot, try to always have one hand free at all times. Be sure to check the interior of your car before entering. If you have any concerns whatsoever (i.e., it’s dark or you feel uneasy), get an escort from store security.
When you enter your car, immediately close AND LOCK the door. Do this before putting the key in the ignition, putting on your seat belt, or looking in the rear-view mirror. Criminals will use the perception of safety, (“I’m in my car, so now I’m safe.”) as an opportunity to catch you off guard.
Don’t shop alone. Bring a friend! There really is strength in numbers. Criminals are much less likely to attack a group than they are a lone individual. More opportunity to get hurt from the victim!
Have your pepper spray on a lanyard on your wrist. To most people, it will just look like a key ring, and won’t draw undue attention. It puts your defensive tool close-at-hand.
At ATMs or Debit card terminals in a store, be sure to shield the keypad as you’re entering your PIN. If someone is able to get your code, you now become a valuable target to have your wallet or purse stolen.
Don’t enter your home if there is any indication that someone may have broken in. Immediately exit the home, get back into your car, lock the doors, DRIVE AWAY and call the police.
Be wary of pickpockets and hit-and-run thieves. Men: Keep your wallet in your front pocket. Rear pant pockets and all (unbuttoned/unzippered) coat pockets are favorite targets. Women: Carry a zippered purse. Cross the strap over your head and across your chest. All: Don’t keep all of your money and cards in one place. If you do get robbed, you won’t lose everything.
When you leave your home, and when you go to bed, for goodness sake, lock your doors and windows, and set an alarm if you have one. They’re there for a reason!
Install outdoor lighting, preferably with motion sensors. Criminals hate light! The bigger and brighter, the better. Be sure your shrubs around your house don’t give the bad guy a place to hide from the light.
If you’ve made purchases online, home deliveries can be a huge vulnerability. Always use your peep hole (or better yet, a front door security camera) to view the visitor and hopefully their delivery truck.
If not expecting packages, look through the peep hole/security camera and reply to the visitor by talking through the door. Ask, “Who’s there?” This lets them know someone is home (making it a high-risk target). Remember: This is YOUR home – you get to set the rules about who is allowed to enter and how they are greeted.
Women are especially vulnerable to visitors. Rightly or wrongly, women are perceived to be an easier target. They may request to speak to your husband. Never let them know you’re alone – tell them he’s taking a nap, and you’re still not interested. If they do not leave, call the police immediately.
By taking these very simple and practical steps, you can help ensure your Christmas or other holiday seasons are happy ones.
While you’re here, refresh your home security plans by reviewing Preventative Home Security.