It’s that time of year again, time for holiday baking and events, crowded stores and relentlessly cheery Christmas music. Some people also brace themselves for stressful travel schedules and planning one party after the next. However, one thing most people don’t associate the holidays with is crime. Unfortunately, this festive season appeals to criminals as much as well-wishers.
Many loved ones are too far away to get together for celebrations in person and send gifts by mail or carrier service instead. Opportunists know this and will be on the lookout for packages left on doorsteps and porches. It’s a good idea to let out-of-town friends and family know what hours you will be home or have them instruct the carrier that someone must sign for delivery. You can also arrange for packages to be held at the post office for pickup. Keep this in mind when sending your gifts out as well.
Thieves know people travel during the holidays, and scout for houses that look empty. Make sure that your house looks occupied when you’re on vacation. Electronic timers are a cheap and effective way of making sure your lights, and even your television or stereo, come on at a certain time each night. In the long run, timers are both more effective and cheaper than just leaving your lights on 24/7. Make sure your mail doesn’t pile up. Either instruct the post office to hold your mail, or make sure a friend picks it up on a regular basis. Have a friend or neighbor housesit for you during your holiday. Often college students or young adults with roommates will be eager to watch your home free of charge just for the change of pace.
Thieves and pickpockets also target people who are doing their holiday shopping. Large crowds and distracted shoppers make tempting targets. When you’re in an elbow-to-elbow crowd, keep your purse tucked under your arm and your wallet in a front pocket. When walking to your car with gifts, keep aware of people around you, and make sure that you aren’t being watched. Don’t carry too many items at once–doing so makes you look vulnerable to someone ready to grab them and run. Make sure when you leave a store, your keys are in hand and ready to open your car. Many robberies are committed against people fumbling with fitting bulky or numerous gifts into their car. Store your gifts in the trunk and not displayed in the back seat.
It’s also important to mind your trash after the holidays are over. Make sure old packages are discretely put away. Leaving that huge flat-screen TV box displayed out on the curb is just advertising to would-be thieves. Make sure such attractive packaging is folded away at the bottom of your trash bin.
The holidays are a time when we traditionally think about the needs of those less fortunate around us. Everyone is familiar with the Salvation Army bucket and bell ringers outside popular retailers and grocery stores every year; however, some scammers take advantage of holiday generosity to line their own pockets. Whether in person, solicited online or by mail, be sure the charity you give your hard earned money to is legitimate. If you have never heard of the organization, you may want to investigate a bit before donating. Most people never follow up after an initial contribution, something scammers know and count on. You can easily check the Better Business Bureau’s site for ratings of an organization or ask for more information. Additionally, just because a group isn’t fraudulent, doesn’t make it effective. You may want to carefully consider the performance of charities when deciding where to give.