BY PATRICIA L. HARMAN, PROPERTY CASUALTY 360
The busy holiday season provides numerous chances for crimes of opportunity.
From robberies to identity theft, criminals are looking for ways to steal your gifts, credit card information, cars and anything else they can take easily.
Safety starts at home
Allstate Insurance says that burglaries increase by 11% during the holidays, and property stolen from vehicles increases 17%.
And there are some risky behaviors that can increase the chances of a robbery claim. More than 50% of Americans say they have left a door unlocked for a friend or family member and 52% have left a key hidden somewhere. This also means easy access for would-be burglars.
Frequently, Christmas trees are near doors or windows, providing burglars with a clear view of the presents under the tree. Consider storing gifts out of sight and putting them under the tree Christmas Eve to make them less enticing to thieves. Use timers for lights throughout the house to make the home appear occupied and help keep robbers away. Make sure doors and windows are locked before leaving or going to bed.
Posting travel plans on social media can tip off would-be burglars of your plans in advance. Make sure family members don’t post when you will be gone and where you will be for the holidays. Also consider turning off the GPS locator on your phone when posting photos online.
Beware of scam emails either offering amazing discounts or soliciting your contributions to a “worthwhile” cause. Phishing emails increase significantly this time of year and their primary purpose is to get your personal information or access the data on your computer.
Make sure to keep passwords secure and consider using just one credit card for online purchases. Monitor the account to ensure that no unauthorized purchases have been charged to the card. Credit cards offer more protection for online shopping than debit cards. Use secure websites for purchases and look for the padlock icon or the “https” in the URL address.
Check out any online business through the Better Business Bureau, or at the very least, read the reviews from other shoppers before making a purchase. Stick to reputable dealers before buying and recognized nonprofits when making a contribution.
Allstate says that 67% of adults admit to having valuables delivered to their homes while they’re not there and 86% said they have experienced the theft of packages during the holidays. If you won’t be home, have your packages delivered to work or to a trusted neighbor or friend.
There is so much going on at a shopping mall during the holidays, and all of the chaos provides the perfect cover for thieves who need to blend into the background.
Shoppers who are talking or texting on their cellphones make easy targets for criminals because they’re not aware of their surroundings. Pay attention to where you are and who is around you, both inside and outside of the shopping area.
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) recommends not buying more than you can easily carry — or take a friend along to provide an extra pair of hands. If you’re by yourself, ask a store clerk or security guard to help get the packages to the car.
Have your keys out before you get to the vehicle, and check the area surrounding the car and the back seat before entering. Parking in a well-lit area allows you to see anyone who might be loitering around the car.
If you’re going to multiple stores, don’t leave packages out in the open — either put them in the trunk or cover them in some manner. According to Allstate, 60% of shoppers have left valuables in their cars, and 6% have experienced a car break-in during the holidays.
Today’s technology makes it much easier for thieves to steal your credit card information. The NCPC says to wait until you’re ready to make a purchase to pull out your credit card. If you’re using a debit card, cover the keypad so people nearby can’t see your PIN.
The holidays are a wonderful time of the year, and by taking a few practical precautions, you can make it harder for the Grinch to steal more than the joy of the season.