by Erin Griffeth, community services coordinator, Cache County Sheriff’s Office

iStock_000047074592LargeThe winter holiday season is a magical time of year. The twinkling lights, beautiful decorations, and joy of giving transforms the everyday mundane into holiday extraordinaire. Yet, the holidays are usually accompanied with stress, tension and, unfortunately, an increase in crime.

Following are a few tips to help you become less vulnerable to crime during the holiday season.

Shopping in Stores

Shop during daylight hours whenever possible, and go with a friend or family member. If shopping at night, park in well-lit areas close to the entrance.

Never leave your shopping cart with your purse or other valuables, children included, unattended.

Do not buy more than you can carry. Clear visibility and freedom of motion are important self-protection habits.

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

Wait until asked before taking out your credit card, and do not allow anyone to “shoulder surf” to get your account information.

Be extra careful if you carry a wallet or purse. They are prime targets for criminals in crowded shopping areas and transportation terminals. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.

Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around your car before getting in.

Stay alert to your surroundings! Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. If you feel uncomfortable, walk back into the store.

Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.

Shopping Online

Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating security software.

Keep your personal information private and your passwords secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact.

Do not use the same password for multiple website accounts. If one account gets compromised, the danger of other accounts being compromised increases if the user names and
passwords are identical or similar.

Beware of “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Use secure web sites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock on the screen  or “https” in the URL address.

Shop with companies you know and trust.

Other Safety Tips

Phone and online scams abound during the holidays, preying on innocent victims who want to reach out and help others in need. Please take the time to verify “family emergencies”
before sending any money to help a loved one.

Save all your receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases too. This will help you verify that all charges on your credit card are legitimate.

Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your card is lost, stolen, or misused.

Taking a few preventive safety measures can help make your holiday season the “most wonderful time of the year!”

Tips provided by the National Crime Prevention Council and Los Angeles Police Department.