The holiday season is a time to get together with friends and family and – well, it used to be anyway …
Now, it’s a time to stay home alone in quarantine, and, while that aspect of the season has certainly changed, some things about the holiday season remain the same.
Like the threats, for instance. On Monday, Nov. 23, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department put out a press release reminding people how to act to stay safe during the holidays – and not just safe from COVID-19.
Many of the department’s tips are shopping safety tips. Everyone knows about – and despises – porch pirates, but there are other main areas of concern as well according to the department. The top three are “(1) cars getting broken into for presents, (2) packages being stolen off of front porches after delivery, and (3) online fraud.”
Here are some of the department’s tips for reducing the chances you’ll be a victim:
- When shopping, park near a light post so your vehicle is highly visible and you can see into it when you approach it and know that no one is hiding inside. NEVER park in a remote dark area.
- Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle so you’ll be ready to unlock the door and you won’t’ be delayed by “fumbling and looking for your keys.” Also, “If you have a remote unlock your doors as you approach your car so you can quickly get in.”
- Don’t text or talk on the phone while walking. Sheriff’s Department officials say, “You could be distracted and walk out into traffic or you could be seen as an easy victim who is not paying attention to his/her surroundings.”
A lot of the advice is pretty obvious. For instance, if you’re holiday shopping with small children you should “keep an eye on them at all times.” The press release adds, “Stores will be crowded, and safety of a child should be your highest priority.” (Probably, as a general rule, parents should keep a close eye on small children whether holiday shopping or not.)
Here’s another piece of advice that most people already know: “When storing items purchased at the stores, place them out of sight. The best place is in a locked trunk.”
Nothing is more disheartening than to come back to your car with a bag of Cinnabon only to find out you’ve been a victim of a smash and grab.
You can find a complete list of tips at https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety
Here are a few more that aren’t self-evident:
- Prior to placing items in your car, look around to make sure no one is watching you to see what you have purchased and where you are placing it.
- Christmas presents wrapped up are very inviting; definitely lock those in your trunk out of sight.
- Don’t leave your purse, wallet, cellphone, tablet or any other item of value in a vehicle or, if you must store these items in your car, make sure they are properly hidden.
- Lock your vehicle and put up your windows even while you are driving. (The Rhino Times isn’t sure why this is a good idea.)
- Carry only the credit cards you need and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
Not all of the tips have to do with shopping…
- Pay close attention to your bank accounts and credit card statements and be watchful for suspicious activity so that you can quickly alert your bank, credit card company and law enforcement. Many scammers use skimmers at ATM machines, gas station pumps or even restaurants so be vigilant in protecting yourself.
- If you shop on-line, avoid using a debit card tied to a bank account; instead use a credit card with a smaller limit to reduce the amount of loss should you be the victim of online fraud.
- If you’re purchasing toys for small children, be sure that they are safe. You will be surprised what a small child can swallow or what can injure them.
- Drive defensively. Traffic is heavier during the holidays. Be on the look-out for intoxicated drivers and report a suspected intoxicated driver by calling 911 with a description and direction of travel.
- Avoid leaving boxes (especially TV’s and gaming consoles) from purchases visible for trash pickup.
- If you’re traveling out of town for the holiday season(s) let local law enforcement know so a residence check can be placed on your residence. (Yes, the Sheriff’s Department really does have a program that does this.)
And, what’s perhaps the department’s most important advice for the holidays: Have a “Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.”