Cheryl Parson: ‘Tis the season to protect yourself from holiday bandits


By Cheryl Parson - Better Business Bureau

The Christmas season is great, isn’t it? Hustle and bustle, holiday hoopla and festive moods rule. There are decorations to put up, gifts to buy and groceries to purchase. There’s a huge increase of people out and about at the malls and grocery stores. Parking lots are packed, and the stores are crowded.

Thieves love this time of year too. It gives them what they want — more opportunities to become invisible, moving through crowds of distracted and rushed people without anyone noticing them. People often become more careless and at risk to theft and other holiday crimes.

Don’t let your sense of caution temporarily fall by the wayside this Christmas season. The following tips can help you be more aware and cautious:

Protecting your cash and credit cards:

• Do not carry a purse or wallet if you can avoid it. Don’t make yourself a target for criminals. Be extra careful and aware of those around you.

• Men and women both should keep cash in their front pockets, making it more difficult for pickpockets.

• Take only the cash and credit cards you expect to use that outing.

• Shield your credit card and pin numbers from prying eyes while at an ATM or other retail terminal. Keep your credit card covered while in your hand so no one can snap a picture of it with their phone. Also cover terminal keypads when entering your PIN or other numbers.

• Be aware of your surroundings. Choose ATMs that are in well-lit and easily seen areas, not blocked by buildings, shrubs or cars. Lock your doors, and roll up your passenger side window.

• Do not count your cash while at the ATM. Count it once you are away from the machine.

• Be sure to take your receipt. It could contain valuable personal information.

Protecting yourself and your purchases:

• As we mentioned earlier, be aware of strangers approaching you or lingering near you. Thieves and con artists are intent on separating you from your money and possessions.

• Don’t load yourself down with packages. Retain your freedom of movement and visibility.

• If you plan on continuing shopping after you take your packages to the car, move your car and park in another area. Anyone observing you will think you are leaving.

• If you leave packages in your vehicle, make sure you put them in the trunk or somewhere they can’t be seen. Thieves won’t fall for covering them with a blanket!

Safety precautions at home:

• Lock your house when you leave, and turn the security system on, if you have one.

• Leaving the lights and a TV or radio on will help convince burglars someone’s home.

• Don’t leave gifts, purchases or valuables in plain sight of doors and windows.

• Don’t help bad guys by posting your holiday travel or shopping plans on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media.

• Fend off Porch Pirates. Ask your neighbor to pick up a package if you plan on being away from home. Request packages be sent to your post office or other manned location. (You may offer to pick up a neighbor’s packages too.)

The Christmas season presents unique dangers, and busy people can become careless and vulnerable to theft and other holiday crimes. Implementing these tips can keep your holiday season as happy as it should be.

By Cheryl Parson

Better Business Bureau

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

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