As Andy Williams sang, the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year.” However, with porch piracy, pick-pocketing, burglary and cyber theft on the rise, unless you are careful, December can turn into the most troublesome season of all. That’s a lot different than the song version, which says it’s the “hap-happiest season of all!” Don’t let holiday cheer lull you into giving thieves a chance to dampen your spirit. At the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System, we are committed to your safety. So, we wanted to take this opportunity to share tips to help keep you safe this season.
Avoid Package Theft
A 2017 survey of 4,000 Americans revealed that holiday shoppers plan to spend 51% of their holiday shopping budget online, compared to 42% in stores. While the increase in Internet sales is great news for outlets like Amazon, the shift is resulting in a new wave of theft known as Porch Piracy. Guard dogs might be a good idea to discourage this type of theft. Just a thought. Employ the following strategies to reduce your risk:
- Track deliveries online and confirm delivery was made. You can sign up for email notifications to track packages from initial shipment to home delivery.
- If a family member or neighbor will be home when the delivery is made, ask for help to pick up packages as soon as they are delivered to the door. Offer to return the favor.
- Switch delivery location to your work address.
- Call to ask if the post office can hold the package for pick up. In many cases, the post office will keep your package safe and secure for up to 30 days.
- Post your dog by the front door so he or she will raise a raucous if someone approaches your porch.
Prevent Pick Pockets
- When you go shopping, remain alert. Since thieves target easy marks, make sure you look like you know what you’re doing and where you are going
- Park in a well-lit space and be sure to close your windows and lock the car. If possible, use an anti-theft device.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- Pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.
- Keep your purse closed and near your body. Never leave it unattended.
- Stow your wallet in an inside jacket pocket or front pants pocket.
- Don’t carry more packages than you can comfortably handle. If necessary, make multiple trips to the car. But as you do, make sure you aren’t followed.
- Hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk. Breaking into empty cars isn’t worth a thief’s time. Discourage them from targeting your vehicle by making sure nothing is in plain sight – from gifts to spare change, sunglasses, wallets, CDs, cell phones, tablets or anything of value.
- If you are shopping with your kids, teach them to seek help from a store clerk or security professional if you get separated.
- Dogs don’t often encounter pick pockets, maybe because we don’t have pockets?
- If you are traveling, invest in an automatic timer for your lights.
- Ask a neighbor to watch your home, shovel snow, and occasionally park in the driveway.
- Put your mail and newspaper delivery on a vacation hold. Your home will be safer if thieves assume you are on site.
- If you head out for a night on the town, turn on your lights as well as a TV or radio to make it appear that you are home.
- Before you leave, double check doors and windows to make sure everything is locked.
- Don’t tempt fate by displaying gifts where they can be seen from outside.
- After you’ve opened gifts, don’t put a target on your doorstep by stacking empty boxes for expensive gifts in front of your home for trash pickup. Break down boxes for computers, TVs, cameras and other electronic equipment.
- If you see someone suspicious casing your neighborhood or if you witness a burglary in progress, dial 911.
- Not to be redundant, but a guard dog can be great at discouraging burglars.
Guard Against Cyber Attacks
If you aren’t careful, while you are busy virtually shopping, cyber thieves can strike – aiming to pilfer your personal information so they can skim credit card numbers, open credit accounts in your name, apply for loans or file for unemployment assistance programs. The most effective defense for cybersecurity is to:
- Make sure you shop only at credible websites, merchants and companies you trust.
- Pay attention to whether websites which require personal information are encrypted. Verify a secured connection by looking for a padlock in the browser address bar. If you don’t see the lock, verify an encrypted connection, or “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secured” (HTTPS), by making sure the web address starts with “https://” (the “s” stands for secured). HTTP is like a postcard. Anyone can read it as you transmit. HTTPS is like putting the letter into an envelope.
- Never use public Wi-Fi to shop or do anything else online that could put your personal information at risk. Instead, turn your smartphone setting to “data” to guard your data.
- Dedicate one credit card for online purchases. Use a second credit card to pay bills, buy gas, groceries, etc. If the online shopping card is compromised, it should be easy to cancel the account. In the event the card is stolen, you will be glad you will only have to cancel and replace one card instead of every piece of plastic in your wallet. For more information about cybersecurity, contact the Department of Homeland Security, which offers useful and practical information at org. Another good resource is the National Cyber Security Alliance at StaySafeOnline.org.
- If you suspect you are a victim of cybercrime, or if receive suspicious phishing emails, report them to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at gov. The site posts alerts on data breaches and emerging Internet crime schemes.
- Admittedly, a guard dog wouldn’t be able to do much to deter identity theft.
We Care About Your Safety All Year Long
Don’t let stress steal your holiday spirit. Safely enjoy time with family, friends, neighbors and pets. The Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to the training needs of your facility. Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training. Most importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!