The holidays are upon us and our lives are becoming very busy as we plan family gatherings, begin baking and preparing for celebrations, and start our holiday shopping. The hectic pace of the holidays can also present increased risks both on and offline, such as overcrowded stores and greater opportunities for thieves to target your valuables and personal information. Here are a few threats to watch out for this holiday season and tips for staying safe.
Offline threats and safety
Theft of packages sitting on front porches and stoops increases as online shopping drives more home deliveries during the holidays. Many delivery services provide electronic delivery alerts, so take advantage of these services and other protections to make sure your gifts are safely delivered and received. Check your porch regularly during the holiday season if you know you are expecting a package.
Parking lot thefts
Think about it—mall parking lots are packed with cars and people, and cars are full of bags and valuables—it is easy for thieves to roam the lot and break into cars without anyone noticing. Remember to lock your vehicles when shopping, park in well-lit areas and hide any valuable or shopping bags from view.
Protect your purse or wallet at all times and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or extra credit cards. If possible, get out of the habit of even carrying a purse and carry only what you absolutely need to shop- identification, credit cards, checkbook, cash in a pocket. If you do carry items such as a purse, wallet or phone, never leave them unattended in a public place. Shop with a friend if possible, keeping in mind there is safety in numbers, and discuss with your children what they should do in the event they are separated from you.
The day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas day and New Year’s Eve are all on the top 10 busiest travel days of the year list. Throw in wintry mix weather conditions and you will find yourself facing a number of unique driving risks including difficult weather conditions, limited daylight and drivers in unfamiliar areas. Plan for extra travel time and eliminate distractions while driving to help ensure safe travels during the holidays.
Did you know, December 23rd, Christmas Eve and Christmas day are three of the top five days for home fires caused by candles? Never leave a burning candle unattended in your home, and do not put candles or open flames near your Christmas trees or other holiday decorations that could easily catch fire.
Online threats and safety
Keep it clean
All the devices you plan to use for shopping, including smartphones and
tablets, should have up-to-date security software, operating systems, programs and apps. Consider downloading an app that will locate your device in the event that is it lost.
As e-mails and social media are flooded with holiday deals and offers, cybercriminals are also active. Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer during the holidays. If the content of an e-mail or social media post looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
Protect your identity
When shopping online, be sure to only use secure websites. Log off sites after you have completed a purchase, and monitor your bank accounts and credit card activity regularly throughout the holidays for suspicious or unknown purchases. Make Sure the sites are legitimate by checking for a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with shttp or https. These indicate that the purchase is encrypted or secured. If you are planning to use a new website, check for online reviews to ensure the site is legitimate and safe.
Use safe payment options such as credit cards—they are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. Credit cards may have a limit on the monetary amount you will be responsible for paying. Never send cash through the mail or use a money-wiring service.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family. Take the extra steps of precaution to ensure your family’s online and offline safety so you can spend less time worrying and more time celebrating.