Tips for a safe and festive holiday season
By Attorney General Roy Cooper
Nothing ruins holiday cheer faster than becoming the victim of a crime or scam. Rather than taking a break for the holidays, criminals and con artists often prey on distracted shoppers and target homes or cars filled with gifts. By using a little caution and common sense, you can protect yourself and your loved ones this holiday season.
Make your home less appealing to thieves. Keep presents away from windows and doors, and lock up every time you leave. If you’re headed out of town, remember to stop delivery of your mail or get someone to pick it up for you to make sure that identity thieves don’t get it. Also, consider setting your lights on an automatic timer to make it look like someone is home.
Stay safe while shopping. Use caution when shopping for gifts by going during daylight hours when possible. If you have to shop at night, try to go with a friend or family member. Park and walk in well-lit areas, and lock valuables and packages in the trunk rather than leaving them out where thieves may see them. If you feel unsafe walking to your car after dark, ask a store clerk or mall security for an escort.
Shop safely online, too. If you shop online, stick to buying from well-established companies with secure web sites (look for a lock icon on the site and a web address that starts with “https”). Keep records of your orders and pay by credit card to protect yourself if your order doesn’t arrive.
Require signature for deliveries. Thieves have been known to follow delivery trucks into neighborhoods and steal packages left on doorsteps. Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up any packages that arrive while you’re away or opt to have your package held at the nearest service location.
Remember that criminals and scammers don’t take a holiday. Always be aware of your surroundings and protect your wallet and access to your credit or debit cards when in public. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Consider paying by credit card because federal law limits your liability if your credit card is stolen. And never share personal information with telemarketers who call you or respond to emails or text messages that ask you for personal information.
I hope these tips will help you and your family members stay safe and happy during the holidays and into the New Year.
Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff work from January through December to help North Carolinians make smart shopping choices and avoid crimes and scams. We are here to be of service when you need us, but though education efforts like these columns we hope to help consumers avoid problems from the start.
Note to editors: This is one in a series of columns that the Attorney General distributes to educate consumers. If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.