The holidays are an opportunity to share good cheer with family and friends. However, they also are a time when people get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, making themselves vulnerable to theft and other crime. Don’t let a Grinch ruin your holidays! Follow these tips to give your family the gift of a safe and happy holiday season:
- Avoid shopping alone—there is safety in numbers. If you have to shop alone, ask security personnel to escort you to your car. Tell family or friends exactly where you are going and check in with them before you leave a shopping mall, restaurant or party.
- Be parking-lot savvy. Always park in well-lit, heavy traffic areas and lock your vehicle with valuable items out of view. Hold purses close to you—do not let them hang and do not cross them over your neck.
- Stay alert. Walk with confidence and look around. Do not be distracted by headphones or smart phones until you are safely at your destination.
- Carry a minimal amount of cash—and keep it in your front pocket. Use checks or debit/credit cards to make purchases when possible. If an ATM looks suspicious or is located in an area that makes you feel uneasy, take your business elsewhere.
- Keep a paper trail. Save your receipts and check your credit and bank statements regularly for fraud. If a credit card is stolen or unusual charges appear on your statement, contact your credit card company or financial institution immediately. The longer you wait, the more damage a criminal can do to your credit.
- Be aware of stranger danger. Keep in mind that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering packages—and it’s not uncommon for people to take advantage of holiday generosity by going door-to-door for donations when there’s no charity involved. Avoid opening the door to strangers and ask for identification and how the funds will be used. If you aren’t satisfied, don’t give.
- Don’t advertise. At home, don’t display gifts in an area that can be seen from windows or doors. After the holidays, avoid leaving boxes from expensive purchases out on the curb. Instead, break boxes down and put them in dark trash bags or take them directly to a recycling center yourself. If you are away from home, have a neighbor collect any packages left at your front door.
- Ho-ho-hold on before clicking on a link in an email. It could be a “phishing” scheme, where shoppers who click through are led to a false site developed to steal their personal data. Look for signs that the business is legitimate and always shop on secure websites starting with “https://.” Secure sites will also have a small lock icon in the lower-right corner of the screen.
For general safety tips or to learn more about the UTMB Police Department, visit www.utmb.edu/police.