While there isn’t much time left to finish Christmas shopping, many of us will be in a mad dash to get those last few items on our list. It is easy to get distracted with our heads filled with anticipation of seeing family, holiday travel, good food and good cheer. While you are out shopping or out celebrating—don’t let your guard down. Criminals know this time of year people are merrier, celebrating more and spending more money. Many desperate people will not hesitate to rob you. Staying safe starts with situational awareness—be extra diligent this holiday season at the mall, while celebrating and at home.
We have some long winter months ahead of us, which means it gets dark earlier. Most likely when you walk to your car after work, the sun has already set. If you must shop at night, pick a well-lit area to park your car. Typically, mall parking lots have plenty of large lights to park under. Avoid the parking garage if you can. While you pick a parking spot, take note of the cars parked around you. It is best not to park by a car that someone is sitting in. Do not leave your GPS unit, iPod, iPad, laptop, gifts or anything else of value in your car while you are shopping. If possible, shop during the day and with a friend. Keep packages locked in your trunk and covered with a blanket or coat if possible. Personally, I only shop at one place per trip, so I’m not loading up my truck with packages that sit unattended for hours.
Inside the mall, keep a tight grasp on your purse or wallet and do not overload yourself carrying packages. When you are walking to the car and you don’t have a free hand, you become an easy target. Always get your keys out and ready before you head to the parking lot. Walk with your head up and with purpose. Criminals are least likely to target you when you portray an air of self-confidence.
Beware of scammers. Do not buy from people in parking lots or on the streets. If someone offers you a good price on a Rolex or an iPad, I’m sure it’s too good to be true. These items are generally fake or stolen.
During this time of year, don’t carry around a lot of cash. Use debit card or a credit cards to make purchases. This way, you avoid ATMs and if your wallet is stolen, you can quickly call and cancel my cards.
The best way to prevent a home break-in is to make sure your house is not an easy target. There are quite a few quick, easy and affordable ways to make your home more secure. For an in-depth look at securing your home, read Home Defense Equipment: Is Your House Secure? For now, especially if you are going to be traveling, make sure your porch lights are working. Keep them on overnight. A few bucks extra on the electricity bill are worth it. Burglars are less likely to break into a well-lit home. Keep lights and TVs on timers, so it looks like people are home at different times. If you will be gone, have a trusted neighbor pick up mail and newspapers, and change up the lighting in your home.
Traditionally, we put our lighted Christmas trees somewhere in view through a window. A Christmas tree is a clear indication that gifts are also there. Keep presents away from windows and doors. Do you put up a Christmas tree so your family can enjoy it or do you do it for the neighbors? The Christmas tree and presents do not necessarily have to be on display for the world to see.
When bringing home high dollar items, park in the garage and close the door before taking them inside. If you do not have a garage, be as discreet as possible when taking them inside. After taking the new items out of the boxes, break up those boxes so people cannot see what brand new toys and such you have.
Tis the season for parties and merriment. There is nothing wrong with having a good time and enjoying yourself with friends and family—just be careful! Don’t drink and drive. Have the number for a taxicab company, download the Uber app and enough cash to pay for a ride home or make sure you have a designated driver. Keep your gas tank full so you do not have to stop at the gas station late at night. Before heading out for a night on the town let a friend or family member know what your plans are.
If you are celebrating at a bar, never leave your drink unattended. Further, watch the bartender make the drink. At any time you cannot see the drink or if the bartender hides it from you before serving it, do not accept it.
From all of us at Cheaper Than Dirt!, have a wonderful and safe Christmas season.