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2012 Holiday Safety Tips

Brought to you as a community service by First State Bank of the Florida Keys and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Important security tips on protecting yourself, your family and property during holidays.

Shopping safety
  • Stay alert and aware of what is going on around you. The holiday season can be distracting, with lots of glittering lights, holiday decorations and crowds of people. Make sure you pay attention to what is happening at all times.
  • Park in a well lighted area and be sure to lock your car doors. Hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk so they aren’t visible to those passing by your car.
  • Avoid carrying cash if at all possible. Use credit cards for holiday purchases. This makes you less vulnerable to thieves, and many cards offer increased warranties, and other protections for your purchases.
  • Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Don’t put your purse down, and carry your purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put your wallet in an inside pocket or in a front pants pocket. This will deter pickpockets and purse snatchers.
  • If you are shopping with your children, talk to them ahead of time about what to do if they get lost in the crowd. Teach them to go immediately to a store clerk or a security guard and ask for help. If they are old enough, make sure they know your home phone number, your cell phone number and that your name is not just “Mommy” or “Daddy”.
If you travel away from home
  • Make sure the doors and windows at your home are all locked up tight when you leave.
  • Don’t leave lights on 24 hours a day. Put automatic timers on several lights and a radio. Set them so they will turn on and off at random times in different rooms—especially the bathroom.
  • Have newspaper and mail delivery stopped while you are gone or have a friend pick them up.
  • Leave information on where you can be contacted in an emergency with a trusted neighbor; ask them to watch your home and to park in the driveway occasionally.
  • Don’t publicize or talk about vacations ahead of time. Burglars are always listening.
  • Notify the Sheriff’s Office of your plans, and fill out a “premises-check” form, available at the nearest Sheriff’s Office Substation. Deputies will keep an eye on your house when they are in the neighborhood.
  • Arrange to have the lawn mowed.
  • Give your house a lived in appearance. A residence that presents a lived in appearance is a deterrent to burglars.
  • Have a neighbor occasionally use your garbage cans.
  • Leave drapes in a normal position to maintain a lived in appearance.
Fraud during the holidays

There are many opportunities for criminals to steal your money during the holidays and rest assured there are many out there who are planning their next scheme as we speak. Here are just a few possibilities.

  • Criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts and it isn’t unusual for people to go door to door looking for “charitable” donations when, in fact, they are there to line their own pockets. Ask for identification and ask for specifics about how the money will be used. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers, don’t give. Help a charity you know and like – and are sure of – instead.
  • Remember: we always say if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This applies to internet purchases as well, including purchases on Craigslist and eBay.
  • If you are shopping on line, make sure the web site you are shopping on is a legitimate one. When in doubt, shop elsewhere.
  • Email is a wonderful tool for all of us, especially criminals. Cybercriminals often send fake invoices and delivery notices that look like they are from a legitimate business like FedEx , UPS or the Post Office. Banking and credit card scams are also rampant. Criminals try to trick you into divulging your bank account numbers, passwords, social security numbers and other information which will allow them to steal your identity. To confirm authenticity of any of these emails, get a phone number for the company from their official web site and call them for confirmation.
  • Holiday e-cards are fun, but beware of clicking on one that comes from someone you don’t know. It could contain malware, spyware or other hidden nastiness.
  • Many of us use our credit cards for holiday purchases. Make sure you keep close track of your purchases and check your statements frequently to make sure there are no fraudulent purchases made by someone who has stolen your credit card information.
Personal and home safety during the holidays

Most important of all, during the holiday season stay safe and make sure your family stays safe as well. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Decorations can be fun, and beautiful during the holidays. Make sure you read all the instructions on the box of holiday lights you are putting up, though. If you string too many lights together, or use lights rated for indoor use outdoors, you could be risking a fire. Also make sure you turn all your holiday lights off when leaving home, just in case.
  • If you have a real Christmas tree, make sure you keep it moist by watering it regularly. If a tree gets dry, it can more easily catch fire.
  • Many people like to light candles during the holidays. Make sure you only light candles when someone is going to be in the room.
  • When it gets colder, a space heater comes in handy. They can easily catch fire, however, if they are knocked over or if they overheat or short out. Never leave a space heater unattended.
  • Make sure you don’t have a big pile of holiday gifts easily visible through the windows of your house, especially when you aren’t at home. Close the curtains or blinds to keep criminals from “casing” your home for a burglary.
  • Always lock your doors, even at night while you are home sleeping. If you leave your windows open while you sleep, make sure they aren’t easy to reach from outside your house. It isn’t unheard of for criminals to enter a home through an unlocked door or open window while a family is asleep inside.
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