Holiday Safety Precautions


Predator: Dan W., Sergeant, San Diego Police

Discussion: Keep the “ho” in the holidays with these safety tips. San Diego Police Sergeant Dan W. reminds all you law-abiding citizens not to let your guard down during the holiday season. Distracted, busy shoppers make perfect targets for wolves. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for burglars, muggers and identity thieves.

FBI research shows burglaries go up during the holidays. It’s also the busiest time of year for bail bond industry. Also keep in mind holiday crowds may tempt more sinister wolves. For refreshers on that menace, refer to Fighting Home Grown Terror and Active Shooter Defense.

Two steps everyone can take to heighten their safety posture during the holidays: always be aware of your surroundings and lay off the booze. Alcohol is responsible for most of the bad decisions, accidents and risky behavior that occur each holiday season.

Now, let’s examine some specific scenarios.

Porch Pirates

These scavengers feed on packages left outside residences. Turn the tables with home surveillance systems. Video makes it easier to catch and arrest culprits.

Other strategies include delivering packages to your work, a trusted neighbor who will be home, the local UPS or FedEx office, or a local business, which offers such services.

You can specify where to leave a package and times with FedEx Delivery Manager or UPS My Choice. Insure and track packages, and require a signature.

Take a Bite Out of Crime, At Home

Start or join a Neighborhood Watch. Nosy neighbor social networks like “Nextdoor” allow residents in a specific geographic area to post notices about break-ins.

Recognize where and what thieves want. They target single-family homes more often than apartment buildings.

Thieves look for high-value, easy-to-carry items, such as jewelry, gold, electronics, firearms, kitchen appliances, power tools, yard equipment, silverware and alcohol.

  • Get to know your neighbors.
  • Put timers on indoor and outdoor lights.
  • Stop newspaper and mail delivery when out of town.
  • Lock doors and windows when leaving home, even for a few minutes.
  • Keep the outside well-lit. Cut down all that over-grown green stuff around the house.
  • Eliminate hiding places for bad guys.
  • Install secondary locks on windows and doors.
  • Put a stick in sliding glass doors.
  • Leave a radio or television on to make the house appear occupied.
  • Try not to make your house too tempting with large displays of holiday gifts visible through windows or doors.
  • Beware of criminals who sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts.

Remember what your mother said about not opening the door to strangers. Follow it!

Don’t Get Malled

  • Shop during the day, if possible, and with someone else.
  • Park in a well-lit area.
  • Avoid parking next to a large vehicle that can block your vision or others.
  • Take a photo of where you parked. You may be so frazzled having fought for that precious parking spot you’ll have no idea where your car is when you exit the shopping center.
  • Avoid wandering up and down rows of cars. You might as well have a sign that says, “Rob me, please!”
  • Avoid overloading with packages. Thieves zero in on the dummy whose hands are filled and wallet is easily accessible.
  • Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket to defeat pickpockets. Bad guys know people carry more cash with them during the holidays.

Stay Alert

Criminals target people who don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them.

  • Walk fast with a purpose.
  • Put your keys in your hand.
  • Put DOWN the cell phone!

Many purse snatchings and vehicle burglaries are reported at shopping malls during the holidays. Bad guys will often hang out in parking lots waiting for shoppers to drop off purchases and then go back into the mall.

Thieves know shoppers often leave expensive gifts in the car and can be gone for hours. Lock your car and hid valuables. Alert security if you see anyone suspicious or if you see an unattended package.

If you feel uncomfortable at any time, return to the mall or a place where you feel safe.

For the Kids

  • If possible, leave smaller children at home when shopping.
  • Teach children to stay close to you at all times while shopping.
  • Make a plan in case you are separated from each other.
  • Teach your child to go to a store clerk or mall security if you are separated.
  • Never allow children to go to the car alone, be left in the car alone, or go to the restroom alone.
  • Teach children their full name, address and telephone number.
  • Teach children to inform you immediately if anyone starts to talk to them.
  • Don’t just say “stranger,” as children may have a different concept of “stranger,” versus the nice person in the store talking to them about Santa.
  • Discuss various situations with them.
  • Teach them to make a LOT of noise if someone does try to lead them away. This is the best way escape a potential kidnapper.

Merry Phishing and Cyber Crimes

  • NEVER click on links in e-cards.
  • Be the ultimate skeptic. Emails from companies like UPS or FedEx with links to package tracking information or financial company emails may be fake.
  • You can usually spot phonies. The email address and website won’t match up. There will be typos and grammatical mistakes.
  • If in doubt, log on directly to the official website for the business instead of using the link from the questionable email. Contact the actual business to verify if the email is genuine.
  • Be especially wary if the email is an urgent request. That’s usually tipoff it’s a bad guy.
  • Not sure it’s legit? Don’t click! Never respond to unsolicited (spam) email.
  • Always run a virus scan on an attachment from known senders before opening. Avoid filling out forms in email messages that request personal information.
  • Beware of public Wi-Fi where a nefarious router mimics the public Wi-Fi you use.
  • Cell phones and other electronic devices often remember that public Wi-Fi and automatically link to it without asking for a password, exposing your private data.

Taking out the battery, where possible, or keeping electronic devices in an RFID-protected case, like Escape the Wolf’s Zero Trace products, is one way to avoid this risk.

During financial transactions, cover the keypad when entering your pin when purchasing items or getting money from the ATM. Jiggle the card reader. If it appears to be added on, fits poorly or is loose, it may be a card skimmer that will read and steal your account and PIN numbers.

Make sure personal computers have the latest security software before shopping online, including anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam software and a good firewall. Use secure websites for purchases as shown by the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.

And finally, be of good cheer. It’s the most dangerous time of the year!

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