With the holidays rapidly approaching, our thoughts turn to buying, giving and receiving gifts, visiting friends and family, and sharing delightful culinary experiences. However, there are others whose thoughts are occupied with unattended electronic/appliance-filled houses or apartments, distracted shoppers with extra cash in a purse or wallet, or the next “con job” in the name of a Christmas charity. Buyers also need to be aware of counterfeiters who want to entice them with promised bargains. Bargains that may be costly in the end. Counterfeit products may threaten our health and safety.
If you are traveling:
• Put an automatic timer on your lights.
• Ask a neighbor to check up on your home.
• Don’t forget to have your mail and newspaper delivery stopped.
• Sign up for email and text alert systems at your campus/local police departments to stay in touch if you may be away during the holidays.
If you are out of the house:
• Turn on lights and music or the TV so it looks as if someone is home.
• Be sure that your doors and windows are locked.
• Don’t display your gifts where they can be seen from the outside.
• If you plan to have packages delivered to your home, make sure you are home to accept them. If not, as a neighbor or ask that the package be sent to the nearest post office.
If you are shopping at a mall or a store:
• Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you. Park in a well-lighted space.
• Be sure to lock your car, close windows, and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk.
• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.
• Call to cancel missing and stolen credit and debit cards immediately.
• Make sure to complete warranty and/or product registration forms and mail them out as soon as possible since they may provide some kind of protection or replacement value if your property is stolen.
• Check receipts to see whether your full credit card number appears. If a receipt has your full number on it, take a pen and thoroughly scratch it out.
• Double check that you have your credit cards and check book after you pay for your items.
Top tips to help avoid purchasing counterfeits:
• Beware of “too good to be true” prices.
• Be careful when buying through foreign sites.
• Purchase from authorized dealers or directly from the manufacturer.
• Check to make sure the packaging is of high quality.
NCPC also reminds holiday shoppers to keep safety in mind as they hunt for bargains.
Shopping in Stores:
• Do not buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.
• Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.
• Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.
• Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.
• Tell a security guard or store employee of you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies of you are using mass transit or walking to and from your car.
• Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
• Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
• Do not leave packages visible through your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
Shopping with Small Children:
• If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you are separated from each other.
• For the older children, have a central meeting spot designated.
• For the younger children, teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated. Be sure they know your name (not just mommy or daddy), cell phone number, and their address. Go over the dangers of strangers with them so they know who not to talk to or follow.
• Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Everyone’s computer should have anti-virus, anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed. Visit www.bytecrime.org for the free software downloads.
• Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.
• Beware of “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
• Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.
Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company. Taking prevention measures up front can save you from being a victim this holiday season.
Happy holidays from our family to yours!
McGruff the Crime Dog ®