Holiday Safety

By Joseph Pangaro CSO, CPM

As the holiday season approaches, we can find ourselves distracted by all the details of shopping, holiday parties, decorating, and seeing friends and family. These details can be a source of joy or exhaustion depending on your personality. What we must keep in mind is that there are a lot of people who see the holidays and all the activity and distractions as opportunities to do bad things, specifically committing thefts, robberies, and burglaries.

As a young police officer working my first holiday season, I remember being told by the Sergeant in the briefing to be on the lookout for the Christmas burglar. I had to ask who the Christmas burglar was. The sergeant said that every year for the past seven years, someone was going around one neighborhood breaking into houses and stealing presents during the daytime hours when people were at work. 

When I investigated it a little further, I found it was well known that the holidays can be times for burglaries because people have a lot of extra high-end goods in their houses, i.e., Christmas presents.

With that thought in mind, here are some ideas to keep us all safe as we prepare to celebrate.

  1. When out shopping, park your car as close to the store as possible and under a light if possible. As you approach your car after shopping, look at the area before you walk over to the car. Don’t carry so many packages that you are easily distracted or can’t see. If you are going to leave packages in the car at another store, put them in the trunk out of sight. If you see someone in the parking lot that makes you uncomfortable, ask the store to have an employee walk you out. Most will.
  2. When getting into your car, check the area, unlock the door, check the back seat, and load your packages quickly, then get in and immediately lock the door.
  3. In your home, put any purchases out of sight so that a potential burglar looking in the window doesn’t see a pile of gifts just waiting to be stolen. Consider getting an alarm system and motion-activated lights.
  4. Protect your credit cards and receipts. Ensure you put them away in your pocket, wallet, or purse properly and securely. People often leave credit and debit cards at stores, and they can be stolen or used by thieves.
  5. Don’t write or put your PIN numbers on the cards! This is done more than you might think, making it easy for thieves to charge up your card balances and clean out your accounts.
  6. With the use of internet stores and next-day deliveries, we are all accustomed to keeping in mind that porch pirates will be out in force, so retrieve your packages as soon as possible to remove the opportunity for a criminal to steal them. If you won’t be home, see if a neighbor can take the packages for you until you return home.
  7. Talk to your neighbors and pay attention to people or cars circling the area. It might be nothing, or it could be a thief looking for opportunity. Take note of anything suspicious and tell the police, as well as your neighbors.
  8. Check-in on your older family members or neighbors. Criminals specifically target older people for scams and thefts.
  9. Pay attention to potential internet scams; there will be a lot of them. Phishing is a term that means someone sends you an email that LOOKS like it comes from your credit card company, bank, or utility provider. They often use logos from real companies and ask you to “Click” on a link or provide your personal information to verify your account. Real companies do not do this. If you click the link or give them your information, they can steal your money or account information and make expensive purchases on your accounts.

For many people, the holidays are a time for goodwill, love, and fun – and they should be. If we take a few precautions, we can enjoy the holidays and prevent being victimized.  

Let me know what you think at