Saturday, November 13, 2010
Avoid having your holiday hijacked...
Almost everyone knows not to fall for the "I have been robbed overseas please send me cash fast" scam that is going now or the "hey I am from Nigeria and need to get my cash out of the country please give me your Social Security number" that was popular a couple of years ago and still crops up every now and then, but what about the non-cyber crimes? Here are some things to watch for as you battle the crowds.
First and foremost watch out for the straight forward and criminally tried and true method of simple pickpocketing. Just like the retail stores, the holiday season is the high point for thieves as well. To help avoid this take your shopping list and just one credit card, leave any others at home. Its a good idea to keep a photo copy of the front and back of your credit cards in a secure place in case you do need to cancel them. Take your Drivers license for I.D., if you use checks don't carry a full book (I usually only carry one) and make a note of the check numbers you have with you so you can tell the bank if you do get robbed. Ladies need to keep their purse zipped at all times and guys should keep their wallets in a front pocket.
Another theft that takes place during the holidays is the parking lot smash and grab, thieves will watch mall parking lots for people that need to bring their gifts to the car and go back into the mall. To avoid losing all your holiday hard work this way make sure to put everything in the trunk, out of sight of prying eyes. The very best way to avoid this is to see if the mall has a secured area to leave packages while you shop (this is usually only available in large metro areas or mega malls like the Mall of America) or move your vehicle when you come out to put things away. I have done this in the past and it can be a hassle trying to find a new parking spot, but it is so much better than the alternative.
During the holidays department stores tend to hire seasonal help with a little less of a background check. This is a scam that my parents fell victim to many years ago, a thief gets a hold of credit card numbers while checking you out then uses your card to purchase small things that you may not ever notice, usually under $10.00. To help avoid this simply look at your statement when it comes, if you don't remember purchasing something for $5.95 on line then call the credit card company right away.
You have heard me talk about this before, when you are searching for that perfect gift sometimes a gift card is just the only option, but this time of year you need to be wary. Thieves take gift cards that are displayed on grab-and-go racks, like in grocery and department stores. Using a handheld scanner they can read the code behind the magnetic or scratch-off strip on the back of the card. Using that and the number off the front of the card they can steal the value from that card, leaving you a zero balance to give as a gift. If you do take a gift card from an open rack take it from as far back as possible. An even better option is to buy gift cards from behind the counter, having to ask the cashier for the cards may be a little bit of extra work but its better than giving a worthless gift card.
Lastly, keep an eye on your mail, both in coming and out going. Petty thieves will think nothing of opening your mail this holiday for everything from gift cards and cash sent in your holiday greeting cards, to your bank statements and credit card bills so they can steal your identity. The easiest way to avoid this is to mail your outgoing mail in a blue post office box and purchase a locking mail box for your home. The locking boxes are not that expensive when you consider the cost of identity theft. Home Depot has a good selection of them for both post and flush mount, depending on if your mail is delivered to your door or the street.
Have a great weekend everyone!