Think of grandma, leaving the mall with arms full of gifts. Or the same presents wrapped, with bows, under a tinsel-draped tree. Or the cardboard box for that fancy new TV, sitting outside in the recycle bin. Where you see Christmas clichés, criminals see the chance to make a buck.
This time of year, local police report holiday-related spikes in burglaries, car prowls, purse snatchings, etc. Here are some ways to stay safe.
• Park in well-lit areas. Remember where you parked.
• When headed to your car, pay attention to your surroundings. If you put gifts in the trunk and keep shopping, move the car. Keep keys in your hand and an eye on anyone who looks fishy.
• Women should not leave purses in shopping carts. Carry your purse close to your body.
• Men should carry a wallet in a front pocket, with a large rubber band around the wallet to make it difficult to extract.
• Don’t leave anything valuable visible in your car, including packages, shopping bags, backpacks, gym bags, garage-door openers and personal electronics. Don’t leave anything anywhere in the car that can be used for identity theft, such as checkbooks, financial receipts and mail.
• Avoid bringing children when you shop. Don’t let them go alone into restrooms or fitting rooms. Make sure they know what to do if they get lost.
• If you’re leaving the store alone at night, ask for a security escort.
• Be discreet about money or other valuables. Dress casually, not flashy.
• Take only the credit cards you need and leave the rest at home.
• Be wary of letting delivered packages sit out front.
• Don’t warm up your car unattended.
• After receiving expensive goods, break down and shred boxes in the recycle or trash bin, and make sure labels aren’t showing.
• Keep windows and drapes closed and everything locked up.
• If you’re going away, ask police about vacation house checks. Stop newspaper and mail deliveries.
• Be extra cautious about fire, particularly with candles and Christmas trees.
• Make sure decorations and heating devices are kid-proof and pet-proof. No cords in reach of toddlers. No heat lamps to knock over. No choking hazards.
• Know the Washington Poison Center hotline: 800-222-1222
While we’re at it
• Before donating to charity, check to see if the group is registered at www.sos.wa.gov/charities.
• Watch out for holiday-themed spam, including emails and phone calls phishing for personal information.
• Don’t forget about designated drivers. If hosting a holiday party, provide plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and make sure guests have a safe way home.