As members of the Defense Logistics Agency Energy workforce and their families become involved in the increased shopping activity surrounding the holidays, safety should remain a concern. Historically, the potential for thefts and robberies increase during the holidays.
There were 5,451 robberies/attempted robberies reported in 2011 according to the Virginia Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The month of December, the report noted, had the greatest number of robberies reported.
Local police authorities are preparing for the potential for increased crime. Forty Fairfax County, Va. police officers, for example, have undergone specialized training and have been deployed to area shopping malls. Both uniformed and undercover officers will be on the lookout for scams, swindlers, and criminal activity, according to a FCPD release.
The DLA Installation Support for Energy office has some tips for personal safety when shopping and how to prevent larceny from your personal vehicles and home. Diane Whitney, Safety and Physical Security manager offers a safety reminder.
“During the holidays, the potential for thefts and robberies may increase. More people are out and about, and they are carrying more gifts and money than during other times of the year,” Whitney said.
Personal safety when shopping
- Shop during daylight hours whenever possible.
- Know exactly where you park your car.
- If shopping at night, park in well-lit areas.
- Avoid shopping alone.
- Carry keys, cash and credit cards separate from each other and be constantly paying attention to your surroundings.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. If possible, avoid carrying a purse. Use a fanny pack or deep pockets in clothing to carry what you need. Limit the number of credit cards that you carry.
- If you have to carry a purse, carry it close to your body and always zipped or snapped.
- Be aware of strangers “accidentally” bumping into you. Pick-pockets use this as a diversion.
- When hurried or in a crowded shop, make sure you get all forms of identification and credit cards returned to you before you leave.
- Leave the mall/store before closing time. This way, there is a greater assurance you will walk out with other people. There is safety in numbers.
- Use an escort or mall security if you have too many packages or if you are leaving the store after closing.
- Be alert while walking to your car. Inspect under/around your vehicle as you are walking towards it. After checking your car, lock it immediately upon entering.
Preventing larcenies from vehicles
The best way to protect your valuables is to take them out of your vehicle. Criminals steal belongings because they can see them. Something that may be of little value might be of tremendous value to others, Whitney explained.
“Always lock your car doors,” she said. “It is your first line of defense against having your items or vehicle stolen.”
The following are items one should take the time to physically remove from their vehicle: CD players, Bluetooth devices, laptops, GPSs, CDs, cellphones and purses.
Avoid being a victim of cyber crime
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning the public to use caution when making online purchases.
Retail web sales will increase 12 percent over last year’s holiday shopping season and reach between $92 and $96 billion, according to Shop.org, the digital division of the National Retail Federation trade group.
Cyber criminals continue to create ways to steal your money and personal information. If a deal looks too good to be true, it likely is, according to a Nov. 24 FBI press release.
“Be wary of emails or text messages that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. Criminals will attempt to direct victims to click a link or call a number to update an account or correct a purported problem. The links may appear to lead you to legitimate websites, but they are not. Any personal information you share on them could be compromised,” according to the FBI release.
The Bureau offers some tips one can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:
- Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) email.
- Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email.
- Be cautious of email claiming to contain pictures in attached files; the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
- Avoid filling out forms contained in email messages that ask for personal information.
- Always compare the link in the e-mail with the link to which you are directed to determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
- Log directly onto a store’s website identified in the email instead of linking to it from an unsolicited email. If the email appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence will provide the proper contact information.
- Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.
- If you are asked to act quickly, it may be a scam. Fraudsters often create a false sense of urgency.
- Verify any requests for personal information by calling the business or financial institution using the phone numbers listed on a billing statement or credit card.
If you have received a suspicious e-mail, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center: www.ic3.gov. For more information on e-scams, visit the FBI’s E-Scams and Warnings website: www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams
According to the FBI, nearly 400,000 burglaries occur in the U.S. from November through December each year. The National Crime Prevention Council recommends that homeowners improve home security to protect their homes from break-ins during the holidays. Whitney suggested a few precautions the DLA Energy workforce should take.
Don’t announce new high-dollar purchases/gifts after the holidays by leaving boxes at the curb as this may advertise some of the contents of your home to potential thieves.
Ensure doors and windows are locked at all times, even when you are home.
Use timers on lights to give the appearance you are home when you are not.
If you order gifts to be delivered to your home, ensure someone is there to accept the package. Have a trusted neighbor keep a lookout for the packages.
If you go out of town for the holidays, make sure you ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to check the house at least once a day and pick up mail and newspapers. Provide your contact number in case of emergency.
Keep garage doors closed and be sure the door from the garage into the home is locked.