It may be the happiest time of the year, but the season of giving is not hands-off for criminals. Porch piracy, burglaries, scams and other crimes can ruin a perfect holiday.
Here are some steps, tips and tricks to help keep the holidays jolly and safe.
Deck the halls with security
From posting your best buy on social media, to leaving empty boxes outside, there are plenty of calling signs for potential thieves at home. Here's what you should and should not do to keep your home safe:
- Do not put the Christmas tree in front of a window. This could make it an easy smash-and-grab for holiday criminals to steal your gifts. Also avoid leaving exterior holiday lights on if it needs an extension cord that goes through an unlocked window.
- Giant boxes, such as television boxes, are another sign for potential thieves. Make sure to break down the boxes by cutting them up, turning them inside out and placing what's left of the box in a trash or recycling bin.
- When leaving, think about leaving a light or television on, which can give the illusion that someone is home. Consider installing security systems, such as doorbell cameras for added security.
- As always, and especially during the holidays, lock up windows and doors of all buildings and vehicles. A quick lock check could save your valuables.
How to safely shop online and in-store
Hopeful shoppers on the hunt for the best deals are also targets for humbugs and hoaxes. While hopping from store to store, people should make sure to watch their surroundings. When leaving a vehicle, do not leave bags, phones or wallets inside. Previous purchases should not be in plain view within the car. More purchases in the car makes it a bigger target for theft. Traveling with as little cash as possible and shopping in groups is also suggested. Online shopping can have the best deals, but cyber crime is something to watch out for.
- Use a credit card. It may have better protections and, if it gets stolen, the money is not coming directly from your bank account.
- Check for online business reviews through the Better Business Bureau or other review sites.
- Do an online search with the store's name, followed by the search terms 'fraud' and/or 'scam.'
- Call the store to verify.
- Make sure the URL starts with https. The 's' means it is secure.
- Don't shop while using public Wi-Fi.
If a purchase from an individual is to be made in person, make sure the trade happens in a public space. Do not do these meetups at night or alone. When packages come in, people should also take steps to ensure safe delivery. Signing up for tracking updates, having packages sent to your job and buying a package lock box are a few ideas.
Check before you trip
While checking off your pre-traveling checklist for the holidays, make sure you take steps to keep your property safe. People should ask trustworthy friends or family to check up on their home, collect their mail and keep the yard clear of debris. Do not leave a spare key under rocks, in flowerpots or welcome mats, because burglars will expect that. Give the spare key to whoever will check on your home. Check with local departments and organizations to see if your city has a watch program where someone can help make sure your place is safe.
It may be tempting to post holiday adventures on social media as they happen, but do not do it. Thieves can see your posts, realize no one is home and break in. Save the social media posts until you return home.
If traveling outside of your usual area, alert your bank to the location change. This way, the bank should not block your account for "unusual spending" during your trip.