Chief: 'Don't Let the Spirit of Giving' Make You a Criminal's Target
Criminals love the holidays as much as everyone else, because it’s a perfect opportunity to commit a crime.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve dedicated my column to providing safety tips for shopping on Black Friday and protecting your holiday mail and packages. This week, I’d like to once again provide more general crime prevention advice for the holiday season.
Remember; don’t let the spirit of giving lull you into giving burglars, muggers or pickpockets a chance to do their dirty work. Criminals love the holidays as much as everyone else, chiefly because it’s a perfect opportunity to commit a crime. The Grafton Police Department and the National Crime Prevention Council asks you to keep the following tips in mind for a safe and happy holiday season. (For more information, go to www.ncpc.org .)
If you’re traveling
- Set an automatic timer for your lights.
- Ask your neighbor to watch your home, shovel the walks, pick up newspapers, collect mail, and park in the driveway from time to time.
- Be sure to hide any gifts that may be left in the house while you’re gone.
If you’re out for the evening
- Turn on lights and a radio or the TV so that it appears that someone is home.
- Lock all doors and windows while you’re out, even if you’ll be gone for just a few minutes.
- Do not place packages or gifts near windows or in other high-visibility sites.
If you’re shopping
- Don’t let your guard down just because you are rushing.
- Stay alert and be aware of everything around you at all times.
- Park in well-lighted spaces and as close to the store as possible, lock your car doors and hide packages in the trunk or under the seats.
- Do not carry large amounts of cash, pay with a check or credit card if possible. Carry only the credit cards you intend to use and leave the others behind.
- Make sure that you do not carry all your packages at the same time.
- Carry your purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.
- If you take your children shopping, teach them to go to a police officer, a store security guard or a store cashier if they get separated or lost.
If you’re Shopping Online
- Before you begin shopping online, secure your computer by updating your security software. Every computer should have antivirus software, antispyware, and anti-spam software as well as a good firewall. Firewalls and antivirus software are the first line of defense. They help keep your computer safe and secure.
- Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Don’t respond to any requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses won’t ask for this information.
- Beware of bargains from unfamiliar companies. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
- Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address. They indicate that you are dealing with a secure website.
- Shop with companies you know and trust. Check a company’s background if you’re not familiar with it.
- Donate to charities online only if you have investigated the charity. Be sure that the charity’s site is secure or make your donation through the mail.
- Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites. Also, make sure you know all the rules and policies of these sites.
If a stranger comes to the door
- Stay alert to suspicious-looking couriers delivering packages to you or your neighbors.
- Many con artists take advantage of holiday generosity by going door-to-door. Ask for identification and get specifics to how and where the donations will be spent or used.
- If you feel uncomfortable, just say “no thank you” and shut the door.
When you’re at home
- Turn on outside lights to deter burglars.
- Make sure your homeowners (or renters) insurance is up-to-date and everything is inventoried properly.
- Report any suspicious activity to the Grafton Police Department at 508-839-5343.
Anyone with questions for the Chief’s Column may submit them by mail to the Grafton Police Department, 28 Providence Rd., Grafton, MA 01519. You may also email your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include an appropriate subject line, as I do not open suspicious email for obvious reasons.
Normand A. Crepeau, Jr.
Chief of Police