Matthew R. Dimmick

For many, the holidays are times to get together with friends and family and enjoy traditions that have been carried on for generations. Unfortunately, for criminals, the holidays are the ideal time of year to identify and exploit security gaps of businesses and individuals. 

At MSA Security, we spend our time each year helping businesses maintain business-as-usual.  Retailers focus resources year round on loss prevention to reduce shrinkage and further enhance these programs to deal with the surge of thefts during this season. This article is not about how businesses can further protect themselves, although future posts may cover this very topic. Instead, we would like to provide those individuals, who may not have all of the same resources as businesses, pragmatic strategies for reducing the likelihood that they will become a crime victim during what should be a joyous season.

Enhancing your security awareness is one of the most effective methods for mitigating your risk of being targeted and/or becoming a victim. As you head to your local shopping center you should plan your trip with you and your family’s security in mind. Before you even head out, remember that everything you post on the internet, whether it is your location, your planned trip out of town, or the great new Play Station 4 (PS4), X-Box One, or diamond pendant you just purchased for a loved one can result in an unwanted level of exposure to criminal activity.

As you head out, do you need to stop off at the local bank to hit the ATM machine? When you do, make sure to check your surroundings prior to exiting your vehicle. Are there a lot of people around? Is the parking area well light and well maintained?  Are there any suspicious looking individuals in the area? If there is anyone around that gives you an uneasy feeling, find another ATM. If you leave your vehicle unoccupied to go utilize the ATM, do not leave it running and lock the car; you are just asking for trouble.

At the shopping center, your situational awareness should continue. Always be aware of your surroundings. When possible, it is a great idea to shop with friends. Shopping with friends will mitigate some of your risk of becoming a crime victim and (depending on which friends you call), it may even make the experience more enjoyable. 

Many shoppers make frequent stops at their cars to drop off items that they have purchased. When doing this, ensure that you place the objects in the trunk of your car or under the cargo screens found in many hatchbacks and SUVs nowadays. Keeping items, including purses and portable electronics, out of plain view of passerby can only be a good thing. Again, make sure you lock your vehicle each time you leave.

porch e1355436717650 resized 600Once the holidays come and go, remember that what you throw out or put on the curb for recycling, tells local criminals where they can pick up a new big screen television, computer, or tablet. If you can, take your boxes to a local recycling center yourself. If this is not an option, keep the boxes in your attic or basement for a few weeks; so, you can avoid drawing unnecessary attention while potential thieves look for new targets.

A few last points before we go:
      • In addition to being a loss of a couple hundred dollars, the theft of a portable GPS may also lead criminals to your home. This can provide them with unwanted access to your family and to potentially higher value items. 
      • Shopping online can eliminate some of the risks we discussed, however, unless a signature is required or someone is home when the delivery truck arrives, your high value item may be left unattended on your porch, exposing it to theft.
      • We didn’t really have time in this entry to get into all the intricacies of identity theft. This is just a brief note on the topic since identity theft can be a blog or a book all of its own. Be mindful of where you use credit and ATM cards; visit and transact with known entities or sites; consider paying cash in instances where you have to surrender your card (such as picking up the tab at dinner). 
With only a few precautions, you can greatly reduce the chances that your holiday celebrations can be disrupted by unfortunate events. It is our hope that this reminder of these precautions contributes to a safer and happier holiday season for our clients, families and friends.

For more information, contact Matthew R. Dimmick

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