This is a time when homes are jam-packed with glittering gifts, and stores, malls and downtown streets are teeming with unsuspecting shoppers. People are often rushing around, stressed out and careless, looking for last-minute gifts, trying to get everything done. It's enough to make a crook giddy with holiday joy.
Here are some tips on how to celebrate safely this holiday season:
If you're traveling
- Get an automatic timer for your home interior lights.
- Ask a neighbor to watch your home, park in the driveway from time to time.
- Have your neighbors pick-up your mail and newspapers. If it piles up, it's a sure sign you're gone.
If you're out for the evening
- Turn on lights and a radio or TV so it looks like someone's home.
- Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave, even if it's just for a few minutes.
- Don't display gifts where they can be seen from outside.
If you're shopping
- Stay alert and be aware of what's going on around you.
- Park in a well-lighted space and be sure to lock the car, close the windows and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk or out of sight.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.
- Deter pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Don't overburden yourself with packages. Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps (fanny packs are great). Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.
- Shopping with kids? Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.
If a stranger comes to the door, beware
Criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts. And it's not uncommon for people to try to take advantage of others' generosity during the holidays by going door-to-door for charitable donations when there's no charity involved. Ask for identification and find out how the funds will be used. If you aren't satisfied, don't give. Help a charitable organization you know and like instead.
Take a holiday inventory
The holidays are a good time to update–or create–your home inventory.Take photos or make videos of items and list descriptions and serial numbers. If your home is burglarized or damaged due to fire, having a detailed inventory can help identify stolen items and make insurance claims easier to file. Make sure things like TV's, VCR's, stereo equipment, cameras, camcorders, sports equipment, jewelry, silver, computers, home office equipment and power tools are on the list.
Do your part to make the holidays a safe and happy time for everybody–except criminals.