For most of us, holiday shopping takes place in the mall, or even at local small businesses. But for a felonious few, the parking lot is their shopping center of choice – and they’re happy to patronize unlocked vehicles for a “steal” of a deal. Like its first cousin, identity theft, crimes of opportunity increase during the holiday season – sometimes, even boldly “knocking” at your front doorstep. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle, but it’s important to be vigilant and take care to thwart thieves from robbing you of presents, peace of mind, and the joy of the season.
Holiday Crime Prevention Tips
For Your Car:
- Be mindful of your parking spot and park as close as possible to the store. Try to shop during the day, but if you must shop at night, park in well-lit, high-traffic areas
- Try to avoid parking near cars with dark tinted windows, or cars that obstruct your view
- Do not leave car doors unlocked or the windows down /sunroof open, even if you’re just making a quick stop. Thieves are good – and fast – at what they do
- Avoid a smash and grab – don’t leave anything in plain view in your car that could perceived as valuable (criminals don’t know that your duffle bag only contains gym clothes)
- Prior to arriving at the mall, lock all valuables in the trunk of your vehicle. When at the mall, do not take packages to your car and then return to the store. Packages should be secured in the vehicle trunk only before leaving to go home or to another shopping center
- Don’t fumble for your keys when you arrive at your car. Have them ready to use before leaving your home, job or the mall
- Don’t electronically unlock your vehicle until you are within distance of your car door. And only unlock the driver’s door, unless others are riding with you
- If you are ready to leave the mall and feel uneasy about entering the parking lot or garage by yourself, stay in the mall and ask for a security escort
- Do not leave your vehicle unlocked at a gas station, even while pumping gas
- When banking, be aware of your surroundings in drive-up ATMs and when returning to the parking lot from a walk-up ATM or inside the bank
- At home, park your vehicle in your garage or lock your door when taking packages into and out of your house. Do not leave your keys, garage door opener, valuables (such as laptop computers, tablets, backpacks or purses) or items with personal information in plain view
- Shop with a friend. There’s safety in numbers
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
- Carry only the credit cards you intend to use
- Do not carry a wallet in your back pocket. It should be in your front pants pocket
- If you carry a purse, wear the straps across your body instead of around your arms or shoulders. Consider using a fanny pack instead
- Don’t buy more than you can safely carry. Ask a friend or store employee to help you carry your purchases to your vehicle
- Thieves or robbers often look for “high value” shopping bags with your purchases. When possible, slip bags/purchases in a plain bag
- Use ATMs and credit card readers wisely. Have your card ready before approaching the machine, and use ATMs in high traffic areas. Test them for skimming devices
- Shopping with children?
- Teach them how to ask mall personnel or store security employees for help
- Make a plan, and identify a central meeting place, in case you are separated from each other
- Dress casually and comfortably
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry
- Stay alert to your surroundings and the people around you
- Be aware of your environment. Don't walk or park in poorly lit areas
- Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by your devices – it’s easy to be caught off-guard while talking on a cell phone or posting an update on your tablet. Smartphone theft is a year-round problem, and the last thing you want is for your phone (and packages) to end up under someone else's tree!
- Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Con artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings
- Consider having a chemical agent or loud audible alarm in your possession – check to make sure these do not violate concealed weapon laws in your area
- If you believe someone is following you, cross the street, switch directions, walk into a store or restaurant. If you're really scared, yell to attract attention and scare off the thief
- Keep a record of all of credit card numbers (and issuer information) in a safe place at home. Notify your credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused
Sadly, this list is probably as long as the one Santa keeps this time of year, but hopefully it will help you avoid a negative encounter with people St. Nick has deemed to be “naughty.” However, if the unfortunate occurs, remember that Florida home insurance policies generally offer coverage for items stolen from your vehicle. But it’s a good idea to decide if the loss amount merits filing a claim, considering that you’ll need to meet your policy’s deductible before you’ll receive a payment from your insurance company.
Related Post: Holiday Identity Theft Prevention
Also: Give yourself a present this holiday season: take less than three minutes to get a Florida home insurance instant quote. You might be paying too much, and if you switch insurance providers, you could receive a portion of the unused premium from your policy. Who couldn't use some cash back this time of year?