Tips for a safe and happy holiday season

Special to the HeraldDecember 18, 2013 

The holidays are perfect times for thieves to do their dirty work. Our homes and, often, our cars, are filled with glittering gifts. Needless to say, that provides lots of opportunities for thieves to take advantage of us.

If we take a few precautions, you can limit your chances of becoming a victim this holiday season.

During this season of giving, people often will go door to door and solicit for donations when there really isn’t an actual charity involved. Ask for identification and how the funds are to be used.

Help charitable organizations that you know and have decided to support. Don’t feel pressured. If you feel uncomfortable, call police.

Soliciting is not allowed in the City of Puyallup without a license, so ask to see theirs. If they are reluctant to provide it, they probably don’t have one.

While you are out shopping, always be alert to your surroundings. Pay attention to who is around you, what they are doing, and be aware of where you are. Park in well-lit and well-traveled areas, avoid parking too close to shrubbery or other areas that might provide an easy hiding place for thieves.

Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable with a place or person(s), get away quickly. Go where there are a lot of people or where there is a lot of activity.

It’s easy to become distracted when you’re thinking of your lists, carrying packages or simply enjoying the holiday season and all it can provide.

Women should carry purses close to their body; an over-the-shoulder variety or a fanny pack carried up front is recommended. Be sure you keep all zippers, clips, snaps and buckles fastened to ensure your purse’s contents are not easily accessible to anyone but you.

Men should carry their wallets in a front pants pocket or inside a jacket. Those methods will deter pickpockets who love dangling purses or wallets that are easily accessible. They often will work in pairs or groups, so be especially aware of someone who tries to distract you while others surround you.

Don’t allow yourself to become overburdened with packages because that can make you less able to defend your purse or wallet. Make frequent trips to your car to keep your hands free. Place those packages in the trunk of your car. It is highly recommended you move your car between trips, since you really don’t know who is in the parking lot, observing your actions.

Thieves often will position themselves in an area to readily watch shoppers coming and going from stores. Don’t leave packages or bags easily visible from outside your car. That might tempt a thief. And remember to lock your car and remove all your valuables, such as GPS, cell phones, tablets or other electronic devices that might be appealing to thieves.

Don’t carry large amounts of cash or extra credit cards. Only carry those you intend to use that day.

When you use an ATM, watch that people don’t get too close to you. Position your body between the keyboard and any others standing close. And if you feel threatened, ask them to stand back, or make noise. One thing a thief doesn’t want is to have attention drawn to them.

Don’t keep your PIN in your purse or wallet. Try to memorize it. If you must write it down, keep it away from your wallet, and don’t indicate what the number is for. Otherwise, if your purse or wallet is stolen, the thief will have access to all your money.

Keep a master list of all your credit cards at home in a safe place, so if your wallet is stolen, you can easily identify what is missing and report it.

Don’t leave your purse, wallet or checkbook in your car, even if you plan to just dash into a store or business. It only takes a second or two to break a window and steal them.

And if you are shopping online, use only trusted businesses that offer secure transactions.

Lisa Isaacs is the crime prevention coordinator at the Puyallup Police Department.

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