Author’s Note: When I spoke in Herriman, Utah a few weeks ago I had several people ask about the checklist binder I had with me. I had not yet finished the sections but they are done and available now at Totallyready.com I do not have email addresses or a way to contact those who asked so please spread the word. These sections are checklists to help guide your preparations and to access as a guide when the power fails, storms are on their way or for cleaning up after a disaster. They are step by step and ready to go.
Thieves love the holiday season. They can do all their “shopping” in one place as we place gifts under the tree, leave them on counters to wrap and are overwhelmed and often ignore common sense safety practices. They love watching us run to our cars, place an armload of gifts in the trunk and then run back for more. This year they especially love all those boxes dropped off on doorsteps. With the rise in crime, lack of enough police and frustrations over job or income loss during the pandemic, home thefts and thefts at malls are on the rise. Prepare now so you don’t become a victim.
We may believe because many are still working from home that thieves are afraid they may be caught, but that is not true. They find new ways and observe more before attacking. All family members should be taught what to do and watch for. I realize there are those who choose not leave home to shop this year but there are also those who are out shopping and running errands. Use the tips here that apply to your situation this year but save them in your Self-reliance binder for next year when things will hopefully be more normal. Tips should be reviewed several times a year but especially during the holiday season.
1) Some of us will have company for the holidays. With more cars on the street this may require loved ones to park down the block from your home. Remind guests to lock their cars, remove valuables or place them in the trunk. We had our car vandalized and a window broken and the only thing that could be seen through the window was a box of facial tissues. Don’t tempt those who may want to do harm.
2) Be aware of your surroundings and stay alert for suspicious looking strangers in your neighborhoods. Do not hesitate to call the police immediately if you see something of concern. If you see someone at a neighbor’s home and you know they are at work or picking up the kids from school, write down a description of the person and vehicle and call the police immediately. We had a friend who was gone for 20 minutes to pick up kids and when they came home their house had been robbed. We all have patterns to our behaviors and thieves know that.
Last week a group initiated a smash and grab at a Home Depot. They stole sledge hammers, hammers and crow bars. What do you think they had in mind? Their plans were foiled when people began calling the police to report cars with no license plates and cars cruising the neighborhood. Police were warned and the theives arrested. What would have happened if those residents had not made those calls?
3) Always lock your home’s doors and windows, even if you are only planning on being gone for a few minutes. Live in safe neighborhood? Think again. The smash and grabs and delivery thefts are not being done by those living in your town. Theives travel to where the easy pickins are.
4) Packages are often left by the front door at this time of the year. If the package has been mailed through the post office the carrier may also leave your mail at the door with the package. Think of the checks a thief could find in those letters from grandma or uncle Joe. If you are expecting a package, please watch for it, have your neighbors watch for it, or have it delivered to an address of a friend or neighbor who is home during the day. If you have many packages delivered ask the UPS, FED EX, or other drivers to drop packages at the back door or behind a gate where it can’t be seen.
5) Be sure you do not obscure the view from your windows with yard decorations. Neighbors and you need a clear view of your property to avoid creating hiding spaces for a thief.
6) Begin before you leave home for a shopping trip, dress down. If you want to be the last person to have your purse lifted or pocket picked, dress to look as though you are broke.
7) Be sure to activate your car alarm.
8) When shopping, be aware of your packages and other belongings. Keep purses close to your body, cross body purses are perfect. Do not leave purses in shopping carts when in stores. Never leave your purse open as a thief can quickly grab your wallet and be gone. It only takes a second as you turn your back for someone to grab and dash. Keep your phone in your pocket so if someone does grab your purse or package you can call 911 immediately. Men, keep your wallet in a front pant pocket or shirt pocket.
9) When dark, park your car in a well-lighted area, close windows, lock doors, and look around for suspicious persons before leaving your vehicle. Many retail outlets have security staff patrolling the parking lots. Be sure to let them and/or the police know when you observe any suspicious activity.
10) When shopping at night, do not hesitate to ask for a security guard to escort you to your car. The time can get away from us and you may find yourself still shopping when most shoppers have returned home. A deserted parking lot can be a dangerous place.
11) Be aware of the people in your surrounding area. If you think you are being watched, do not go to your car but return to a populated area and report the person to security.
12) If you decide to place your packages in your car at the mall, it is always best to place them in your trunk and then move your car to a new location in the parking lot before going back into the mall. Thieves pay close attention to shoppers and will break into the car to retrieve the packages.
13) Never talk on your cell phone or text when walking in a parking lot. Being distracted makes you an easy target. Look around and look everyone in the eye.
14) Check back seat of car and under the car before entering your car. As soon as you are in the car, lock the doors.
15) Be careful not to flash cash. If you are shopping using cash, good for you, way to stick to a budget. Do not place all your cash in your wallet where curious eyes can see your wad. Go to the restroom and move cash to replace what you have spent.
16) Credit cards offer convenience and security, however, keep track of all cards and keep receipts to compare to your monthly statement. Yes, there are unscrupulous clerks too. Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.
17) Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Start a file to keep receipts organized to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in. Notify the credit card company immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused.
18) Shop online only with companies you know and trust. Check a company’s background if you are not familiar with it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
19) If you plan to leave on vacation, contact your neighbors and ask them to remove any advertisements that may be placed on your driveway or front door and to keep an eye on your home. Stop your mail and newspaper. Remember the crowded street parking? Ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway giving the impression you are home and have visitors.
20) Purchase several timers and begin using them now. The timers will set a pattern and if anyone is watching your home they will not be able to determine if you have left since the same lights go on and off every day whether you are there or not. Be sure the blinds are open enough for the light to be seen but not enough for the thief to see inside.
21) Do not open the door to anyone you do not know. Be sure your children understand that they are never to open the door. If the person has on a brown uniform but there is no big brown delivery truck in the driveway you know they are up to no good. Call the police and report the incident. This is a good time of the year to keep your doors locked. Thieves will work in teams and while you are occupied at the front door they will slip in the back.
22) Use your home burglar alarm every time you leave your home and when you go to bed.
23) If you plan to travel for the holidays, don’t discuss your plans with strangers. Why would you do that? Have you ever told a store cashier all the snacks you were buying were for your trip? Have you ever posted your plans on facebook or another social media site? Comments like, “can’t wait for my mom’s apple pie” or “ Almost done with packing” Remember anything on the internet can be hacked and 80% of incarcerated thieves said they found leads on social media sites.
24) Christmas may have come and gone but theives have not. It is not time to let down your guard. When discarding boxes break them down so the original contents can not be determined. You do not want to advertise the new TV or computer.
25) If you will be gone on trash pick up day ask a neighbor to take out and return yur trash can.
26) Begin now leaving outdoor lights on all night long. If you leave for the holidays there will be no change in the pattern of your lighting and thieves hate light.
27) Do not leave a hide a key outside if you will be gone.
28) Close the blinds at night so theives can’t see the gifts under your tree. Don’t place gifts where they can be seen through the window or from the door.
29) A dead giveaway that you’re not home? A decked-out home with lights and inflatables turned off. If you have strung up lights or have inflatables, they should be on timers.
30) Arrange for someone to shovel the snow while you are away.
33) Consider your garage’s weaknesses. The garage has some weak points that may make it easy for an intruder to work their way in. If you park your car in the driveway, don’t keep the garage opener in your car; keep it in the house or purse. Cover garage windows so a thief can not tell if the car is in the garage. Only use a deadbolt lock to secure the doors into the garage and from the garage into the house. And, use them.
Continue with all the habits you have developed. Continue locking doors and windows and keep your home and family safe this season by taking precautions now.
Carolyn is asking for ideas and suggestions for what you would like help with in 2022. Please visit her facebook page and blog at Totallyready.com and let her know how she can help you overcome your stumbling blocks to being self reliant and Totally Ready.