Tips to keep yourself and your gifts safe

EVERETT — A trunkful of freshly purchased Christmas gifts can make a tasty treat for a crook.

Everett police are asking people to be careful to protect themselves and their property over the next few weeks, even when they’re rushed and distracted.

“We don’t want anybody, any family, to be victimized this holiday season,” Everett crime prevention officer Eddie Golden said.

The most common crime uptick during the holidays is car break-ins, Golden said. Thieves watch parking lots so they know which cars to hit.

“The criminals are actually conducting surveillance,” he said.

When people put shopping bags in their trunk, they should move their car before heading back in the store, Golden said.

“It’s a deceptive ploy,” he said.

People should avoid leaving valuables in their cars, especially when they are visible to others, Golden said. When walking through parking lots or crowded areas, women need to keep their purses or pocketbooks held tight to their bodies, he said. Purse-snatchers especially target people who look older or distracted. Shoppers also should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or showing their cash.

“Not that they have to be on guard, but they should be aware of their surroundings,” Golden said.

When people get home, they need to avoid advertising their purchases, Golden said. Burglars canvass neighborhoods. They look for clues such as new TV boxes in the recycle bin.

Boxes should be shredded or broken up, and blinds and shades should be kept closed if presents are stacked up inside, Golden said.

“Do not store presents out in the open,” Mukilteo crime prevention officer Colt Davis said.

Avoid leaving packages unattended on doorsteps, too.

Lastly, people should be careful at cash machines, Golden said. Most folks are good about watching for bad guys, but they forget an important step — taking a good look at the ATM for anything suspicious. Crooks sometimes attach devices that help them steal personal identification numbers and gain access to accounts.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449, rking@heraldnet.com.

Tips

•If possible, people should find a baby-sitter for shopping trips. Children get lost more easily in big crowds. If parents bring children along, don’t let them go into restrooms or fitting rooms alone. Pick a meet-up place in case anyone gets lost.

Park in well-lit areas. Remember where you parked. Roll up the car windows and lock all doors.

If you have a removable car stereo, remove it. Don’t leave packages or bags of any kind visible on the seats or floor of your car. Don’t leave anything anywhere in the car that can be used for identity theft, such as checkbooks, financial receipts and mail.

Between the store and your car, keep your keys in your hand and walk purposely. Make sure nobody is in the car, and lock the doors immediately once you get inside.

If you’re leaving the store alone at night, ask if they can provide a security escort.

Be discreet about money or other valuables you are carrying.

Stay alert in crowds. A thief can use the cover of the crowd to make a quick getaway.

Take only the credit cards you need for shopping, and leave the rest at home. Women should carry purses close to their bodies and separate cash from credit cards. Don’t keep your keys in your purse. If someone nabs it, they’ll have your home address — and a way to get inside.

Men should consider carrying wallets in a front pocket and putting a large rubber band around it. That can prevent pickpockets.

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