The holidays are here and theft is on the minds of many thieves, including some who use extreme measures to break and enter into a home and overcome the owner at all costs to get what they came for, or to steal what money they can quickly access. We’ve all heard the stories about people who are injured when they find themselves in the middle of a burglary. Don’t let that happen to you.
Let’s face reality. Thieves prey on people during the holidays. They know we have a million ideas swimming in our heads and we’re not paying attention to our surroundings as much as we should. They know we might be storing a little extra cash in our homes and in our wallets. We never know what drives someone to take the actions they do, whether it be stealing money to support an addiction, feeling desperate due to a recent job loss, or acting out an initiation ritual as part of a group or gang. No longer does a thief just wear a mask. These days, thieves will dress up like elves, repairmen, landscapers, telephone solicitors and delivery persons. They want to look “normal” in the scheme of their activity. Unfortunately, we become a little more trusting during the holidays. We want to spread good cheer and keep our spirits high. Actually, however, our antennas should be up more than ever.
You’re in a hurry to get to work, so you tell a repair man, “You know where the heater is,” or you tell the delivery man to hold on a second so you can put the dog in the backyard leaving the door cracked open while you do so. While these people are standing at the door “waiting” for you to come back, some of them are scoping inside your home within their lines of vision, memorizing your address on the paperwork they have in hand, making note of your material possessions to gauge what level of income you might have, and sometimes even monitoring your schedule of comings and goings. Seniors are particularly at risk, and we might be diligent to remind our elder friends and relatives that they should be extra cautious this time of year. Here are some good tips to share with your friends around the holidays when thieving activity is a little higher than normal:
- Consider an alternate place (instead of under the welcome mat) to hide your front door key. Yes, people do still hide keys under the mat and in other obvious places. If it’s easy for you to access, it will be easy for someone else, as well. Under the mat is the first place someone will look.
- Use the peephole in your door. We’ve become so accustomed to just opening the door in broad daylight that we neglect a few simple precautions. Even if it’s still light out, take a look through the peephole and make sure you can see who is there before you answer. If you don’t know the person, don’t open the door. If you are fearful, call 9-1-1.
- Make sure any repair persons and landscapers are in full view all the time. You can’t shadow them in their jobs, of course, but you can ensure that they’re not straying too far from the beaten path looking for areas to access the inside.
- When you’re done shopping at the mall, have your keys out and ready to unlock your car. Hopefully you’ve taken an extra step and parked in a well-lighted area. If it’s too dark to make it to your car, locate a security guard to escort you.
- Never, ever give your credit card or personal information over the phone or to anyone at your door. Arizona visitors were cautioned to be aware when checking into hotels over the holidays, as imposters called the hotel rooms claiming that they needed credit card information “again” due to a faulty computer system at the front desk. Identity theft, while not injurious, is still a serious crime.
Holidays are meant to be happy times for all, but they won’t be very happy if you find yourself the victim of a robbery, especially if you become injured in the process. Surround yourself with measures of safety by staying extra alert during the season. Self-protection will keep thieves out of your way, and holidays happier for you and your family.