By Attorney General Roy Cooper
The Stanly News & Press
The holiday season is a busy and fun time of year. But don’t let the holiday excitement keep you from taking necessary precautions to avoid crimes, scams and accidents.
Nothing ruins good cheer faster than being 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 while you enjoy the holidays.
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. Shop for gifts 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.
Be careful with decorations. Secure your Christmas tree properly in a tree stand and place it away from doors, pathways, fireplaces or radiators. Keep the tree watered so it won’t dry out. Also, keep ornaments that could shatter out of the reach of children and pets. Don’t leave a burning fire or candle unattended, and keep flammable decorations such as trees and greenery away from open flames. Never overload sockets with too many lights, and always turn off your holiday lights before you leave home.
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 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.