The holidays bring out most people’s kindness and giving spirit, but for criminals, it can be a season for greedy, grinchy opportunities.
“The potential for crime to increase is higher during the holidays because people are out shopping and spending money,” said Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Specialist Henry Tirado, assigned to the Vista station. “Criminals want to find the easiest victim, like people not paying attention to their surroundings and carrying packages or leaving packages that are visible in vehicles–that could be a target of opportunity.”
The San Diego County District Attorney and Sheriff’s department remind residents to take precautions to avoid becoming a theft victim whether online, in malls or store parking lots, or at home.
Every year cyber criminals take advantage of holiday shoppers online with various tactics, but there are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you’ll be scammed.
Fraud investigators with the District Attorney’s Office recommend the following:
- Use one credit card for all online purchases to avoid exposing other cards.
- Do NOT click on links from unsolicited emails. Go to the website instead.
- Make sure the website is legitimate and secure. Check for the lock icon in the address bar, and make sure the address begins with https.
- Make sure the computer you are using has an updated anti-virus protection.
- Avoid using a public computer.
- Avoid using open Wi-Fi for financial transactions.
- Do not trust sellers who ask you to pay with a wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.
If shopping in malls or stores, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department offer these tips:
- Shop during the day when possible and shop with a friend.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Don’t overload your arms with packages and bags while shopping.
- Park in a well-lit area.
- Have your keys out and ready when approaching your car.
- Be aware of how you carry your purse or wallet. Would it be easy for someone to take it?
- When out at the malls and stores shopping, lock your car doors and take valuables with you.
- When storing items purchased at the stores, place them out of sight. The best place is in a locked trunk.
Tirado said for those people who are going to put purchases in their car and go back to shopping, he recommends that he or she can not only put packages in their trunk or out of sight, but that the shopper also take an extra step of moving their car to another parking spot in case there are criminal spotters who might have seen them loading up their car with bags. This extra step could make the criminal think the shopper is leaving.
Now that you’ve shopped, there are more precautions to take at home.
For those who ordered online, schedule package deliveries when you are going to be home, but if it is not possible, consider the following suggestions:
- Leave special instructions to the delivery person to put the package in a backyard, or somewhere where it’s not visible from the street. (However, if someone is following a delivery driver, they will be watching and it may not matter.)
- Require that the delivery driver get a signature for the package (from a trusted neighbor).
- Track the package.
- Sign up for email or text message alerts with estimated delivery times.
- Have USPS, Amazon, FedEx or UPS hold your package at their pick-up facility so you can pick it up in person at your convenience.
- If purchasing from a large retailer, request that your package be delivered to a local branch or store so you can pick it up in person.
- Get to know your carriers. If there’s been a problem of thefts in the past, tell them about it.
- Insure your packages.
- Ask a neighbor or retired relative (who is home) if they will accept your package for you at their address.
- Have the package delivered to your workplace if it is permitted.
- Buy a locking mailbox big enough for packages.
- Consider installing a camera security system that photographs people who come to your door and allows you to communicate with them without opening the door or being home.
And lastly, once the gifts are safely inside your home, they may not stay safe if a thief takes notice of valuable items under your tree.
- Always lock your doors and windows especially at night and when you’re away.
- Avoid opening doors to strangers.
- Place gifts where they cannot be seen from outside your home.
- After opening presents, don’t pile up empty gift boxes outside. This gives burglars a hint of expensive items in your home. Instead, keep boxes inside until the night before your garbage pickup.
- If you see someone casing your alley, report suspicious activity to the Sheriff’s non-emergency line at (858) 565-5200.