For many reasons crime escalates during the Holidays: people are moving about with valuable purchases and lots of cash; homes are filled with gifts. Thieves see opportunities.
To help you stay safe Rytech searched for the best precautions and found them courtesy of the Savanah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. In addition to staying COVID safe, please stay personally safe by following these recommendations during the Holiday Season.
SHOPPING—Follow CDC safe distancing and masking protocols
• Limit the amount of cash you carry. Try to use debit or credit cards. If the card becomes stolen or lost, contact your credit card company immediately to cancel the card.
• Keep your cell phone in a pocket rather than your purse. If the purse disappears, you will be able to call for help.
• Shop with someone else. The more the better.
• Be aware of your surroundings. Shopping is an exciting time and thieves can prey on those who are not paying attention.
• Park in a well-lit area.
• Always store valuables out of sight. Make sure your purchases and valuables are safely hidden in the trunk or another hidden area. Remove all valuables from your vehicle each night.
• Lock your car and make sure windows are up. Thieves will often jerk on car doors looking for an easy target. Take all keys. If thieves find a spare key, the vehicle probably will be taken.
• In the haste to get bargains, avoid quickly throwing packages in the back seat and running back into the store. If you have to make a run to the car, hide the purchases in the trunk or another secure area and consider re-parking. If someone sees you make a run to your car with packages, they usually know you won’t be back for a while.
• Consider making your most expensive purchases last so you can head straight home with them.
• Have your keys ready when you approach your car. (Your keys can be used as a defensive weapon if necessary.)
• Look around the car to assure that no one is lurking around or in the car before entering.
• Consolidate smaller purchases into one or two large shopping bags. Never leave purchases unattended.
• Make sure the site is secure. Browsers will say SECURE or have a lock icon on secure sites or will have https instead of http in the address. (The “s” stands for secure)
• Only use well-known, trusted sites for online purchases.
• Keep an eye on your online banking and credit card statements to ensure your card information hasn’t been stolen.
• Never use public WIFI. You have an increased risk of cyber criminals getting your information this way.
• Use credit instead of debit. Credit cards give you some protection that banks do not. If there’s a problem, you have the right to dispute a purchase through your credit card company.
• Women should hold purses close to their body with the opening closed or zipped shut. When walking with someone else, keep the purse between you.
• Keep your mobile phone in a pocket rather than the purse.
• Never leave your purse in the shopping cart, even if you are close by.
• Men should consider keeping their wallets in their front pocket rather than hip pockets or jackets.
CHILDREN—Follow CDC safe distancing and masking protocols.
• Shopping carts are top-heavy. Make sure children are in the seats and not riding in the basket itself.
• Remove your child’s coat or sweater once indoors. Overheated children can become difficult and distracting.
• Keep your children with you at all times, not allowing them to wander on their own. (They can move quickly.) If possible, try to shop with another adult to help watch your children.
• Take a photo of your child before shopping. If they become lost, you will have a current photo of them in the clothes they are wearing that can aid in more quickly finding them.
• Point out security guards or store offices so your children know where to go if they do become separated.
Your home is enticing to would-be thieves and the lights of the tree remind them that goodies may be available.
• If you have a burglar alarm, use it, even if you only intend to be away for a few moments.
• If your house will be vacant, consider turning off the lights. (This also serves as a fire safety reminder.)
• Remember, after Christmas those fancy boxes stacked in your trash area or yards are billboards to thieves who now know what items are in the house.
• Resist the urge to leave a vehicle running to warm up while unattended. It will warm up more quickly while being driven, and many auto thefts occur when vehicles are left unattended with keys in them.
• Never have packages delivered to your home when you are away. Either have them re-routed to an alternate address, pick them up at the carrier office or ask a neighbor to pick them up for you. Those big boxes are a clear sign that no one is home and your purchases have been left unattended. Some thieves will follow delivery trucks to see where they make stops at.
AUTOMATIC TELLER MACHINES
• Try to withdraw money only in daylight hours when people are around.
• Limit afterhours ATM use to those in well-lit, public areas.
• Look at the ATM to assure that no extraneous equipment has been attached that may scan your card.
• Look around and make sure no one is loitering nearby or acts suspiciously. If they do, walk away quickly. If they arrive after you have begun your transaction, cancel it and return later.
• Have your card in hand, conduct your transaction and walk away quickly. You can count the money later in a safe place.
• Never leave your receipt in the machine.
HOLIDAY TRAVEL–Follow CDC safe distancing and masking protocols
• Ask one or more neighbors to keep an eye on your house, alerting them on who might be there legitimately. If your area has a neighborhood watch, by all means, request its help. Make sure they know how to contact you.
• Make sure your alarm is working and is set.
• Awareness is your best protection. Be alert to what is going on around you at all times and use common sense.
• Don’t think twice about calling police if you see anything suspicious. Do it! You could be preventing immediate and future crimes.
• If you are a victim of a crime, try to remain as calm as possible, remembering every detail you can. Look for something obvious about the suspect, then assess their height in comparison to yours, hair color, facial hair, scars, eyeglasses, direction of travel and method of travel. (Automobile description, color, make, tag, if possible.) Also, note clothing colors and styles, especially shoes, since shirts can be changed easily.
A COVID-19 REMINDER FROM RYTECH
For high risk persons and for the protection of others, the safest approach to COVID-19 is to shop online whenever possible and, when shopping in person, follow local/state ordinances and CDC guidelines for social distancing and masking. See more COVID Holiday advice from the CDC here.