Thursday, November 06, 2008

Seasonal Safe Shopping

Halloween is past, elections are over, and before you can blink Thanksgiving will be bearing down upon us and the holiday shopping season will officially open. Although the peak season for stealing is during the summer in most neighborhoods, this time of year we generally see an increase in theft. More of us are out shopping for gifts for our family and friends, carrying more cash and credit cards, and often not mindful of our belongings. Here are three tips to reduce your risk of a seasonal setback.
  • When you order merchandise, do not have the package delivered to your house if nobody is home to receive it. Eleven out of 12 months you can usually get away with it. But in December -- and I found this out the hard way -- when more of us are having gifts shipped, some enterprising thieves realized they could just follow around UPS and FedEx trucks and collect left boxes. Merry Christmas for them!
  • Even though this tip seems obvious, I am often surprised when I see what people leave in plain view in their cars. It does not take much time at all to break into a car and clean it out of interesting contents. Don't make a thief's shopping spree so easy! If you are driving to several locations to shop, store all packages out of sight in the trunk, even if you think you'll only be gone "a couple of minutes."
  • This one is so basic, I'm amazed when I hear how many students in my self-defense classes do not lock their doors. As a former New Yorker, locking one's door is just obvious, even natural to me. Apparently not so here. So many thefts -- and sometimes assaults -- happen where the perpetrator can just walk right in.
A corollary for those of you moving into a new home, condo or apartment is to change your locks right away. If you are a renter, your landlord is obligated to have it done immediately. A friend of mine was unpleasantly surprised in the wee hours one morning when several intoxicated young men used a key to open her condo's door! The men left when confronted by her boyfriend, claiming they thought it was another friend's unit. Needless to say, she changed her locks.
Of course, if you see anything or anyone suspicious, call 911 right away. Just a few extra precautions can help you avoid lost time, gifts and possessions. Just a couple of extra moments of awareness can keep your holiday season cheery and festive, for you and the people you care about.

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