Ah, the holidays! We look forward all year to a happy, safe, and convivial time with our families, but who thinks about the possibility of being a victim of crime? We’re all about the bright lights, the sounds, the savory smells of Christmas; no one wants to think about locks, alarms, and pepper spray. But this is precisely the time we should consider it most seriously. Shoppers are carrying cash and plastic that can be attractive to thieves, as well as loading and unloading vehicles with gifts. It’s time to be vigilant rather than victimized.
Different Types Of Holiday Crimes
Knowing what to watch out for and being aware of your surroundings are important ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. A number of crimes are typically observed during the holiday season, especially when shoppers are out in public carrying cash and credit cards.
- Purse snatching/pick-pocketing – With shoppers carrying money in purses and wallets, thieves are particularly anxious during the holidays to liberate that cash from you when you are distracted by trying to check things off your Christmas list.
- Car theft/hijacking – Cars are often stolen during the holidays to be used in other thefts, then abandoned or sold (possibly for parts).
- Lying in wait – Thieves often lie in wait for shoppers as they get out of their cars to go into stores (before the money has been spent), or after they leave the stores (when they are laden with packages).
- Assault – Thieves have no compunction over assaulting someone in order to steal cash, credit cards, or Christmas gifts.
- Identity theft – Hanging around Internet cafes to steal credit card information, or lurking near ATM machines is a typical pursuit of thieves during the holidays. Stealing carbon copies of credit receipts from department stores can also be a good way for thieves to get credit information.
- Scams – “Special deals,” lottery scams, and other “too good to be true” cons are prevalent during this time of year. The FBI has more details and tips to avoid being scammed here.
- Only carry the credit cards you need and minimal cash when shopping. Don’t be obvious about handling cash or put wallets, credit cards, or cell phones down in reach of thieves.
- If someone tries to snatch your purse or wallet, don’t resist. Try to notice distinguishing things about the person, but don’t follow or provoke them. Just call 911 and let the police handle it.
- Park in a well lit area and accessible spot, if possible. Don’t dawdle when exiting or entering your car, and always have your keys ready.
- Be sure to remember where you have parked, and check to be sure no one is hiding in your vehicle or loitering around outside it.
- If you must put items in your car, try to keep them out of sight; lock packages in the trunk, or better yet, drop them off at home if you have to go to another store.
- Only use automatic teller machines (ATMs) in well lit areas, and observe whether there is anyone in the vicinity.
- Beware of people approaching you in parking lots or outside stores.
- Drive defensively.
The holidays should be a time of celebration and enjoying time with family. Don’t let yourself become a victim. Be observant, be aware, and be safe. For more information about holiday crimes see our previous blog about the issue here.