TALLADEGA -- The Christmas season is among the most joyful times of the year, but some people might try and take advantage of the hectic holiday pace.
The Talladega Police Department has numerous tips to make sure you and your family enjoy the season safely.
First of all, when out doing your holiday shopping in person, “lock everything,” Lt. Alan Kelly advises. “This seems obvious, but more often than you would expect, a burglar gets into a house just because something was left open or unlocked, especially with house guests visiting who may not have keys.
“(Also), secure your valuables. Never leave anything of value in plain sight. If you have not already done so, now may be a good time to consider placing any jewelry, extra cash or other valuables in a safe deposit box or a secure hidden safe within the house.
“Nothing should ever be visible from a window, and the master bedroom is the first room any intruder will check for valuables. Large displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through the doors and windows of your home.”
You should also be careful in using social media, he continued.
“Though you may be tempted to broadcast to the world about how excited you are for your holiday travels or Christmas shopping sprees, resist the urge to broadcast to the whole world that you are not going to be home,” he said. “Many people cannot seem to wait to let everyone on Facebook or Twitter know that they are about to leave, and this is a most dangerous thing to share.”
If you are away from home for a while, it’s a good idea to make it look like your house is still occupied. While not eco-friendly, leaving a light on can make it look more like someone is home, which in turn makes it less likely that someone will try and break in.
“Keep the lights on, the Christmas lights lit and the television on,” Kennedy wrote. “Anything to signify to potential burglars that someone is home. Indoor and outdoor lights should be on an automatic timer. The home automation and smartphone interactive management tools available from many security systems today allow you to turn off and on the lights throughout the day and night to keep up appearances that someone is home.”
Have a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers if you’re going to be gone for a while.
“When in doubt, think like a burglary,” Kennedy advises.
Shopping should be done during daylight hours, if possible. If you must shop at night, take a friend or family member with you, he adds.
“Dress casually and comfortably, avoid wearing expensive jewelry and do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible,” he said. “Always carry a driver’s license or identification card, along with necessary cash, checks and credit cards that you expect to use. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and pay with a check or credit card whenever possible. Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, stay alert to your surroundings.
“What cash you do carry with you should be in your front pocket. Notify the issuer immediately if a credit card is lost, stolen or misused, and keep a list of all card numbers in a safe place at home … Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps. (And) beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, ‘con-artists’ may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.”
If you must use an ATM, use one indoors and in a well-lighted area. Withdraw only as much cash as you need, and shield the keypad while entering your pin number. Do not throw the receipt away at the ATM location.
When driving to or from your shopping destinations, you should avoid driving alone or at night, and keep your doors locked and windows rolled up at all times. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device when you get out.
If you must shop at night, park in a well-lighted area and avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells or cars with darkly tinted windows. Park close to the stores and remember your spot. Do not ever leave your car with the motor running or children inside, and do not leave packages or valuables on the seats.
Shopping online may spare you the crowds and chaos of in-person shopping, but it carries a whole different set of hazards, Kelly said.
“Approximately 7 percent of all United States adults have their personal identities stolen or otherwise misused, and the average financial loss per person is around $3,500,” he said. “Don’t let this happen to you while doing your online shopping by investing in identity protection software … The cyber risks are growing daily, and you’ve worked too hard to have your money and identity stolen …
“Whether you are looking for a service that will lock down every aspect of your identity tighter than Fort Knox or … a service to simply protect your Social Security number, there are identity protection services to meet your needs.”