The holiday season is a busy and fun time of year, but those in law enforcement advise folks not to let the holiday excitement keep them from taking necessary precautions to avoid crimes, scams and accidents.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, along with Richmond County law enforcement officials, have compiled a few helpful tips to keep you and your family safe during this holiday season:
- Make your home less appealing to thieves. Keep presents away from windows and doors, and lock up every time you leave. If you’re headed out of town, remember to stop delivery of your mail or get someone to pick it up for you to make sure that identity thieves don’t get it. “You can also request a home security check from the police department,” Rockingham Police Chief Robert Voorhees said. “We’ll be glad to check your home at least once a day … and make sure all windows and doors are OK. We just ask that you leave an emergency contact if you’re going out of town.” Chief Voorhees said residents can request this service both online and in-person at the police department. Also, consider setting your lights on an automatic timer to make it look like someone is home.
- Stay safe while shopping. Shop for those last minute gifts during daylight hours when possible. If you have to shop at night, try to go with a friend or family member. “Be aware of your surroundings before you get out of your car,” said Hamlet Police Chief John Haywood. “Look around and see if anyone is standing around in a place they wouldn’t normally be. Lock your doors. When leaving the business, do the same thing. Look around, see who’s near your car. Have your key ready to get in and lock your doors immediately.” Park and walk in well-lit areas, and lock valuables and packages in the trunk rather than leaving them out where thieves may see them. If you feel unsafe walking to your car after dark, ask a store clerk or mall security to escort you.
- Shop safely online, too. If you shop online, stick to buying from well-established companies with secure websites; look for a lock icon on the site and a web address that starts with “https.” Keep records of your orders and pay by credit card to protect yourself if your order doesn’t arrive.
- Be careful with decorations. Secure your Christmas tree properly in a tree stand and place it away from doors, pathways, fireplaces or radiators. Keep the tree watered so it won’t dry out. Also, keep ornaments that could shatter into dangerous fragments out of the reach of children and pets. Don’t leave a burning fire or candle unattended, and keep flammable decorations such as trees and greenery away from open flames. Never overload sockets with too many lights, and always turn off your holiday lights before you leave home.
- Remember that criminals and scammers don’t take a holiday. Always be aware of your surroundings and protect your wallet and access to your credit or debit cards when in public. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. “Be sure to clutch your pocketbook or bag over your shoulder at all times,” Chief Haywood said. Do not leave important items unattended in shopping carts. Consider paying by credit card because federal law limits your liability if your credit card is stolen. And never share personal information with telemarketers who call you or respond to emails or text messages that ask you for personal information.