Red and green decorations. Christmas trees. Twinkling lights. It’s called the “most wonderful time of the year” for good reason. With all of the joy and merriment about, it’s hard to not be enchanted by the holiday season. But don’t let all of the glitter get into your eyes. As you prepare for the holiday season, be sure to do so safely and securely.
The holiday season brings out good will in people, but it also brings out the scammers. The “grandchild in trouble” is an “oldie but goodie” when it comes to holiday scams. In this scenario, unsuspecting victims receive calls from fraudsters, posing as beloved grandchildren, and hoping to extort some cash from grandma or grandpa. Don’t fall for it!
Before sending or wiring any money to someone on the other end of the phone, confirm their identity. Ask them to verify their birthdate or yours. Question them about family details no one else would know. Call another family member or their parents to be sure that the caller is truly your beloved grandchild, and not a scam artist.
Online shopping is convenient, as it saves you from visiting overcrowded stores. Be sure, however, that the online retailer’s site is safe. If the web address doesn’t begin with “https,” it could mean that the website isn’t secure, which means your credit card details aren’t, either. When buying gifts on Etsy or other sites which feature third party sellers, read the reviews, and pay attention if other shoppers warn of missing shipments or items. If you respond to ads on Craigslist or other re-sell sites, be sure to make arrangements to pick up items during daylight hours and in a secure location. Make sure the location is in a high-traffic and busy area, like a shopping center parking lot. Take a friend with you, and be sure others are aware of your plans. And never, never arrange to meet a stranger at your home or give out your address.
Traveling for the holidays? Be sure your neighbors and friends know, and arrange for someone to look in on your house. (Or, sign up for the Citrus County Sheriff's Office’s Security Watch program.) Stop your mail and newspaper delivery. Be cautious about who knows you’re going out of town, and refrain from posting photos of your trip online until after you’ve returned home.
Staying home for the holidays? Make sure that your Christmas tree and presents aren’t visible from the street. Once the holiday festivities are over, don’t put all of your empty boxes by the curb while doing your post-Christmas cleanup. That’s an advertisement for potential thieves about what goodies Santa brought you. Instead, break the boxes up and put them in larger bags, or, better yet, make a trip to the recycling center to dispose of them.
The holidays can be a fun and festive time of the year. With a little forethought and planning, they can also be celebrated safely.
Amy Douglas is the Senior Services Coordinator for the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office.