Holiday Crime Prevention – Bob Babilino, Firestorm Expert Council

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As the Holidays draw to a close, the lessons of crime prevention should be carried into and throughout the New Year.

Don’t Be a Victim

The traditional holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve celebrations means spending time with family, automobile or airline travel, the exchanging of gifts, religious services and traditions, attendance at mass gathering events and counting our blessings. It is also an active time for all types of crooks and thieves, because they know the sidewalks and stores are crowded with people carrying cash, expensive gifts, and financial transaction cards.

Retail sales top $600 billion and theft increases up to 30 percent during the year-end holiday period, according to sources. Shoplifters, counterfeiters, pickpockets, residential burglars, and purse snatchers are busy at work during this season, but the holiday period can also bring out the worst in people; drunk driving, robberies, vehicle theft, domestic violence, rapes and sexual assaults increase during this time, so citizens also need to take precautions and stay safe.

The leading crime of this season however, is identity theft, a crime related to our new interconnected, digital world of the Internet of Things, smartphones, tablets, and computers. Much of our commerce is now conducted online, and electronic thieves take advantage of  trade through skimming, phishing, and other social engineering schemes.

Crooks also prey on the goodness of people during this time, offering deals too good to be true, and charity scams that tug at our heart-strings. Be informed, stay alert, and use common sense, so your holiday season will stay merry.

Here are a few tips to safely enjoy the holiday season and beyond and thwart those nasty crooks out there.

When shopping at stores

  • When parking your vehicle to go shopping, remember where you parked it! Always park in a well-lit and well-traveled area. Do not park in a remote dark area. (Hint: take a picture of your parking space and the parking area with your phone, focusing on easily identifiable level signs and other parking lot landmarks).
  • When you return to your vehicle, scan the interior of your car to be sure no one is hiding inside. Check to see if you are being followed.
  • Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. You will be ready to unlock the door and will not be delayed looking for your keys.
  • When storing items purchased at the stores, place them out of sight. The best place is in a locked trunk.
  • Do not leave your purse, wallet, or cellular telephone in plain view.
  • Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse under your arm. Keep a wallet in an inside jacket pocket, not a back trouser pocket.
  • Don’t resist if someone tries to take any of your belongings. Don’t chase someone who robs you, they may have a weapon. One option is to throw your keys and as the bad guy runs toward them, run the other way. Call 911.
  • Lock your vehicle and put up your windows while driving.
  • If you go to an automatic teller machine for cash, check for people around and make sure it is well lit and in a safe location.
  • Carry only the credit cards you need and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Beware of the “good deal” scams. Things are not always what they appear to be.

Originally published in The Regional Organized Crime Information Center: Special Research Report and submitted for reprint with permission by Firestorm Expert Council member Bob Babilino.

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