Don’t Be a Victim During the Holidays

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Don’t Be a Victim During the Holidays

I love this time of the year. For me, the Christmas season IS “the most wonderful time of the year,” filled with fun, family and happy memories. However, with the holiday season upon us, we also need to remember that this is a high crime time of the year. Fortunately, you can do things to protect yourself; easy precautions that can help greatly reduce your chance of becoming a victim during the holidays.

While I have always preached “situational awareness” it has never been as important as it is in today’s society. Go outside to a busy sidewalk and watch people who are on foot. More than half of them are either talking on their cell phone, texting or doing something else on their smartphone, or have earbuds or headphones on and are listening to music. In other words, they are distracted. In the mind of a bad guy, those people just moved to the top of the victim list.

 

Can You Relate to This Scene? 

Christmas Safety Tips - Dallas Private InvestigatorLet me give you one typical scenario. You are leaving a store or the mall with packages in your hand. Now add talking on the phone or texting someone. You just became target A-1. Stopping at your car and fumbling to find your keys and open a door? That gives the bad guy just enough time to close the distance and be on top of you while you are not looking.

Instead of that, how about this. Before you walk out of the store or mall, find your car keys and have them in your hand. Make sure that you either have the door key in your fingers ready to put in the lock, or your thumb on the unlock button. Put your cell phone in your pocket, knowing that you will not take it out until you are locked in your car. As you walk out the door of the building, survey the parking lot in front of you. Look around, and notice the people on foot, as well as vehicles driving around slowly. Remind yourself where your car is, then start in that direction, but try to be at least one aisle over from your car. Start walking with a purpose, with your head up, your head looking from left to right. Be alert. When you are getting close to your car, walk between parked vehicles to get to your car’s aisle, then hit the unlock button, or have the key ready. Look all around. Put your packages quickly in your car, get in and lock your doors, and start the engine.

Does this seem extreme? Possibly. But it really doesn’t take that much more effort or time; it just takes a change in your mindset and how you do things. If you avoid being a victim just once, it’s probably worth the small adjustment in how you do things.

Now, let me add a few more actions on your part to the scenario. These actions will make it a little more inconvenient for you, but also increases your security even more.

 

You Can Make Yourself Safer

Christmas Mall Safety - Don't Be a Victim - Dallas Private InvestigatorDon’t stop at the trunk and put packages in there, or open the back door and load packages in the backseat, especially if you are bending over to put things in the car, turning your back to the outside world. Instead, open the driver’s door, and put your packages in the passenger’s seat as you enter the vehicle. Get in, lock the doors, start the engine, buckle up and drive off. If you need to get settled, make a phone call, read a text, or move the packages, drive to another area of the parking lot where there is some space or empty parking spots, where you can see that there no visible threats nearby. Now do the things you need to do inside the car. If you are going to move packages, do that last.

If you are leaving the mall after dark, or had to park far away, stop at the security or information desk at the mall, and ask for an escort. Many malls have security officers either inside or outside (or both) that are happy to do that.

If you are headed to your vehicle and something seems off, don’t go to your car. Turn around and head back to the store. Look for other people on foot walking towards the store and get close to them.

If you are approached by someone that makes you nervous, yell “Help. Help me!” over and over again. Turn and run back towards the store. If you were wrong, you can be embarrassed. If you were right and hesitated about yelling, we might be using your story as a cautionary tale. You don’t want that!

Most criminals are picky about there victims. They want victims that are easy to take by surprise, who they think won’t resist, and who have something they want. If you are looking purposeful, alert and paying attention, you are not the kind of target most criminals want. They will cross you off the potential target list and wait for someone else.

Some of you like to take things to the car and then go back into the mall. If you do that, keep in mind that a smash and grab thief is watching for someone just like you. Locking the items in the trunk doesn’t help much, since most cars have trunk releases inside the vehicle. Smash the window, pull the trunk release, and grab the packages, all in 30 seconds. How do you prevent it? Take the packages to your car, get in and drive off. Park in a different area of the parking lot, out of view from your previous spot, and go back in and shop away! If you follow my earlier advice. Stop in an open area and move the packages to the trunk, then drive to the new parking spot out of sight of where you parked to move the packages.

When you leave the mall, be aware of cars that follow you out. If you think someone might be following you, make several turns, staying on busy streets, or turning into a parking lot. Look for identifying characteristics of the car, like its grill or headlight pattern. Some thieves have been known to follow someone home and attack there, where they could be out of sight, and where the target may be more relaxed.

 

A Scam of Which You Should Be Aware

One final scam warning. Here in Irving, police broke up a cell phone theft ring earlier this year. Men would offer kids money to steal someone’s cell phone. It works like this.

A 10 year-old walks up to an adult at a place where an adult would be sympathetic; a park, soccer fields, outside a school, a mall or grocery store parking lot. They say that their mom was supposed to pick them up 30 minutes ago and they are getting scared. Could they borrow your cellphone to call mom or grandma? You, being the good person that you are says yes, and without a thought hand over your $500 cell phone, which you conveniently unlocked before handing it to them so they could make the call. As soon as it hits their hands, they are off like a shot, running away with your phone before you know what is happening.

A few blocks over a man hands them $50. The kid is ecstatic, the man will resell the phone for a couple of hundred bucks or more, but not before he scrolls through your unlocked phone to see if he can get banking account or credit card numbers, passwords, or other personal info before you have a chance to remotely lock or erase it. More sophisticated rings have a laptop on hand to quickly clone the phone before they power it down and remove the SIM card to keep it from being tracked with GPS. Now they have access to every email, contact, and every other piece of personal information on your phone.

My point? Be vigilant, pay attention, and be suspicious when in public. Relax in the comfort of your home, but when you are out in the world, never forget there are bad people out there as well. Most of them are looking for easy targets. By making a few adjustments, you can remove yourself from that list!

 

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Keith Owens is the owner and founder of Owens Investigations. He also loves the Christmas holiday season, and doesn’t want anyone to ruin yours! Stay safe.

 

1) photo credit: chooyutshing via photopin cc

2) photo credit: dave416 via photopin cc

3) photo credit: Mrs. Gemstone via photopin cc

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