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The holiday season is upon us as Christmas trees rise in homes, lights adorn windows, and holiday Zoom gatherings are scheduled!
It’s been a long year and the holidays will undoubtedly provide some sense of normalcy to all of our lives.
It’s been very challenging with many people across the world hurting physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially.
While the holidays are a time of happiness and generous giving, they are also notoriously a time where criminals, thieves, and predators seize the opportunity and commit more crimes.
Why is there more crime during the holidays? The holidays present an ideal opportunity for criminals everywhere because:
- People go away and leave their homes unattended
- Consumers spend more and hence there is more money in use and more credit cards being used
- People go out in public to enjoy the festivities and shop more
- People go online to shop more
- There’s more drinking during the holidays
- There’s higher emotions during the holidays
- People want to have more gifts to give family and friends and may not have the means to do so
- People face more financial difficulty towards the end of the year
These are all reasons why the typical holiday season can be more unlawful than normal.
When you include the fact that we are in a global pandemic with high unemployment, small mom-and-pop stores and large retail chains alike going out of business, and an unstimulated economy, people are more desperate than ever to find ways to “survive”.
The global pandemic will only exacerbate common transgressions during the holiday season and it's important that you follow our expert tips on how to stay safe during the holidays and avoid dangerous situations.
1. Beware of Cybercrime
In-person shopping still accounts for approximately 85% of all retail sales, while internet shopping accounts for approximately 15% of all retail sales.
However, ecommerce shopping is on the rise and was expected to reach 22% by 2023 before the pandemic hit… now it may claim a larger piece of the pie due to more people socially distancing and shopping from home.
When do people do the most shopping? During the holidays!
During the 2020 holidays, more cyber criminals will try to steal your credit card and financial information, hack your computer, or steal personal details. Here are some tips to defend yourself against unwanted cybercrime:
- Make sure you have an installed and updated antivirus program on your computer and a firewall
- Check websites for security badges such as:
- A website address starting with “https” where the “s” stands for secure
- Padlock icons in the URL bar which represent a secure site
- Certifications and other 3rd party decals denoting encrypted or secure servers for financial transactions
- Never respond to emails requesting credit card information or personal information
If you’ve been shopping online for a while, then you know the drill. Keep in mind that during the holiday season cyber criminals prey on unsuspecting shoppers even more, so be on high alert.
2. Deter Burglars from Your Home
Have you seen Home Alone?
Just like in the hit movie from 1990, burglars look for homes that are unattended since many people visit family or go on vacation during the holiday season.
During this quarantine, more people have fled their primary homes for country houses or summer homes due to the virus.
When you combine these two mass home exoduses together, you have a prime opportunity for burglars to strike.
There are many ways to protect your home and deter unwanted burglars:
- Tell your neighbors when you’ll be away. They’ll be able to keep an extra eye on your property if they’re around. They’ll also be able to take in or move from sight any packages or mail that arrive. Burglars will look for full mailboxes or packages that have been sitting in front of a house for many days when they canvass a neighborhood
- Invest in a home security system with smart cameras like Nest. Surveillance cameras allow you to set them up at front doors and windows, and allow for motion detection recording
- Smart lighting. If you set up your home lights and lamps as part of a smart system, you can create a schedule for them to turn on. This will make it appear that someone is home to a burglar canvassing the neighborhood
- Double check to make sure all of your windows, doors, sliders, sky lights, and garages are locked whether you’re home or away
- Close blinds, curtains, shades, and shutters to ensure burglars can’t scan the house for belongings or people
Protecting your home is easy and inexpensive nowadays and will give you a lot of peace of mind when away.
Even when you’re home it’s important to implement the above security measures to ensure your family’s safety.
3. Safeguard Your Wallet and Personal Belongings When Shopping In-Person
Pickpockets and muggers are out and about in popular shopping areas and look for unsuspecting victims who are easy targets.
Follow these tips to reduce the likelihood a hand of sticky fingers has access to your wallet:
- The best advice is to stay vigilant and alert. Be aware of anyone close to you, anyone watching you, and most importantly anyone bumping into you or touching you. All of this should be second nature, but in a crowded mall or clothing store, we normally don’t notice these things. Our current 6 feet social distancing rules should make it easier to notice someone encroaching on your 6 foot bubble
- Wear a money belt.
- Keep the bare minimum of cash in your wallet. Most credit cards have fraud protection but you won't get stolen cash back
- Store valuables in front pockets
- Don’t keep valuables in bags or backpacks
- Be mindful of diversions that could be used to distract you such as random strangers, Good Samaritans, subway turnstile delays, charity groups, sudden fake fights, or child beggars
4. Exercise Defensive Driving
Drunk driving is a common problem throughout the year, and becomes more prevalent over the holidays due to more days off from work and alcohol-infused festivities when gathering with family or friends.
Beyond ensuring that you are driving sober and safe, you should realize many of the drivers and cars around you might not be.
This is where defensive driving plays a crucial role in you and your passengers’ safety. Here are some tips to exercise defensive driving:
- Drive slower on holidays
- Reduce distractions in the car including your smart phone, loud music, or passengers
- Be extra alert for suspicious drunk driving behavior such as swerving, speeding, or improper use of lights and turn signals
- Remove yourself from potentially dangerous situations. Stay away from car jams and large groups of cars clustered together to reduce the likelihood of being involved in a multi-car accident
- Buckle up
- Use your lights and breaks generously
- Keep an extra buffer between you and the car in front of you
- Stay alert to blind spots, other cars, and the empty space around you
- Keep a consistent steady pace. Accelerating or decelerating quickly can cause the drivers behind or around you to do the same
- Plan ahead to prepare for anything so keep a first aid kit in your car
Here are some other defensive driving tips for you to stay safe on the roads during the holiday season and after: Driving Safety Tips
5. Be Extra Vigilant of Desolate Environments
The 2020 holiday season will be very different and you need to be extra careful when out in public. Why is it more dangerous out in public?
- The holiday season in general sees an uptick in robbery crimes
- The global pandemic has forced people indoors creating more desolate public environments which invite crime
- The global pandemic has crippled employment, small businesses, and many industries, and more people are looking to survive in any way possible
Seasoned criminals and amateur crooks will both seek victims that seem vulnerable and easy, and this means targeting victims in certain environments.
Why are desolate environments an ideal setting for predators?
- Less people to physically intervene
- Less bystanders to verbally intervene or call the police
- Less distractions and obstacles
- The victim feels more helpless
The current global pandemic has only increased public desolateness as smart civilians are bunkering down in their homes until there’s a vaccine and it’s safer to be outside.
Therefore there are even more desolate spaces in public at this time.
Additionally, the economy has been hit hard by the pandemic so people are more desperate than ever.
Overall, you should be mindful when going out in public and avoid desolate areas.
6. Retrieve Delivery Packages Expeditiously
This tip is self explanatory but often overlooked.
Set up notifications for deliveries from the major shipping companies such as:
USPS Informed Delivery
UPS Shipping Services
DHL Shipment Monitoring
FedEx Delivery Manager
Once your package is delivered, retrieve it quickly so that thieves cannot steal it from your front porch or front yard.
7. Stay Home and Shop Online
We’re in the middle of a pandemic! Only essential workers should be out in public unless you absolutely have to leave your home. This is safest for you and your loved ones.
Nowadays you have the ability to order pretty much whatever you want online.
Previously this was for convenience. Now it’s for convenience and safety!
If the gifts that you’re shopping for can be purchased online, it’s best to stay home and order them on your laptop instead of visiting a brick and mortar store.
We're all feeling the COVID fatigue.
It's not easy, but we're almost out of the woods and if we continue to be smart and patient, we'll be able to reduce the number of deaths and the tragic impact this virus will have on our society.
There will be two risk factors in effect in the next month: the holiday season and a continuing crippling pandemic.
When you combine these two difficult situations together, you have an unpredictable environment with increased criminal activity.
Protect yourself by following the tips above and share this article with your loved ones so they can stay safe too!