The 12 Crimes of Christmas

While most of us are getting ready for Christmas, there are those lacking the holiday spirit. With the added stress of the holidays, the parties, and shopping online or in the mall, there is a lot more opportunity for crooks to ply their trade. During the season, there are several crimes in particular that everyone should be on the alert for and take some extra measures to protect against.

1.     Robbery

With all the activity, shopping malls and parking lots can become a feeding ground for someone looking to steal from others. Shoppers with their arms full of bags and packages can easily become a target for a robbery. Suspects can lurk about undetected in busy crowds or unseen by distracted passers-by. A quick grab of a victim's packages and a run to a waiting car is all that is needed for this kind of strong arm robbery. A suspect using a gun or other weapon makes it more dangerous.

               Tip - Avoid overloading yourself with packages and walking alone through parking lots. Be alert to anyone sitting in cars in the parking lot or loitering about watching shoppers. Don't try to fight an armed suspect for property - only if your life is in danger. Don't forget the risks at ATMs.

2.     Identity theft

Christmas season is a great opportunity for identity thieves. Hiding in the crowds, it becomes easier to get passwords as people shop online at Wi-Fi spots or even use a cellphone to take a photo of a credit card to use the number online.

               Tip - Be wary of people using cellphones around you in lines or at Wi-Fi locations. Instead of texting they could be videotaping your card number, account user name and passwords. Check your credit card accounts for accuracy and report any suspicious activity right away. Same with bank accounts. If suspicious activity is reported right away, your loss is limited, generally to $50. Stay away from debit cards as a suspect can drain your account before you find out and then you have to work with the bank to even get your money back so the potential loss is greater, at least at first.

               Beware – most identity thefts occur by people we know – roommates, friends and relatives. These are the people in our homes who have easy access to credit cards and other ID information.

3.     Theft

Just as with robberies, it is easy to get distracted and leave items unattended or at least not closely watched. Where force or threats are used in robberies, thefts involve stealing something without the confrontation. Leaving a purse or package in a shopping cart and walking a short distance away is another example.

               TIP - Do not leave items unattended - ever!

               Did you know? The most commonly stolen items anymore are smartphones and tablets, such as iPads and iPhones. Keep a close eye on those electronic items.

4.    Phishing

With all the shopping including online, it is easy for crooks to send out blanket emails to potential victims, pretending to come from well-known online stores. An unsuspecting victim could respond to a believable email and respond to a convincing request to confirm account details. In short order, the suspect has the victims account details and can quickly get online to do their own shopping - at your expense.

               Tip - Even if an email appears to come from an account or online merchant that you have used, be wary that the email actually comes from the store. Check the link included in the email by hovering the mouse over the link. If the links do not match or do not appear to be from the vendor, do not click on it. Better to search for a phone number and contact the vendor directly to check for any problems.

5.     Burglary

This time of year there are a lot of reasons to be away from home. Christmas parties, work parties, family gatherings and shopping, not to mention vacations, keep us away from home more often than normal. But Christmas gifts probably sit under the tree, right by a front window, as part of the decorations. Burglars know this and are looking for signs that no one is home to break in and help themselves to your valuables.

               Tip – When leaving, be sure to set timers to turn on lights and keep gifts and other potential items of interest out of the view from windows. If you have Christmas lights, make sure that they come on even when you are not at home to give the appearance that someone is there. Nothing is more inviting to a burglar than a dark house and decorations turned off. Don’t let mail or newspapers pile up if you are out of town and have a neighbor shovel snow and even park in your driveway to give the appearance someone is home.

               The # 1 way burglars break into a home is through unlocked doors and windows – lock up before leaving!

6.    Vehicle trespass (car break-ins)

When running errands or picking up gifts, it is easy to make multiple stops and leave gifts in the car while inside another store. Crooks love window shopping too and will definitely look for items to steal.

               Tip – Keep valuables out of sight and in the trunk of your car. Try to time your stops so that little will be left in the car at any one time.

7.     Car jacking

Instead of a sleigh full of goodies, some crooks will look for a car loaded down with gifts.

               Tip – Keep valuables out of sight, in the trunk of your car and keep your doors locked. Always watch for anyone lurking about as you walk to and from your car and pay attention to any cars following you – yes, it does happen so if in doubt drive a few extra blocks to be certain no one follows you.

8.    Credit card fraud

Crooks get credit card information in many different ways. Going through the trash is one very low tech way. Meth addicts have been known to use their extra hours awake to reassemble shredded documents for ID theft, including all the mail with the credit card offers. A high tech way to get credit card info is to use skimmers, small devices that record account information. Make sure that card readers at gas stations or other locations work normally and if there is a problem, look for any unusual devices on the reader itself. Crooks sometimes put their own skimmers on and can be very hard to detect.

               Tip – As with other forms of ID theft, keep a close eye on all accounts. Ideally, never let the card out of your site. Even wait staff at a restaurant could keep a skimmer in their pocket to record your credit information.

9.    Family violence

This time of year we think of spending it with our families. Sometimes, that includes the crazy uncle or eccentric aunt. It can also mean violence from others you are around. The added stress of the holidays can contribute, especially if someone has a history of violence.

               Tip – If you have any concerns about others at parties or other gatherings, let family members you trust know beforehand. Limit alcohol and if someone does become threatening or violent, ask them to leave or even call police if necessary.

10. DUI

Speaking of alcohol, there is certainly a bit more this time of year with eggnog and holiday drinks and holiday parties. 

               Tip – When driving, watch the cars around you and keep your distance from cars weaving or driving erratically. When starting from a red light, check to make sure no one is running the light in the cross traffic.

11.  Road rage

 The stress of the holiday can really show itself on the highways as people are rushing back and forth and that can lead to some anger management issues behind the wheel.

               Tip – Do not get into pointless arguments on the road. If someone is flipping you off, ignore it and keep driving. Let aggressive tailgaters pass and if you are being followed, head to a crowded, public location, such as a busy grocery store. Use your cellphone to call police and pay attention to where you are and what street you are on.

12.  Vehicle theft

Our cars are one of our biggest and most valuable assets and we take them everywhere. And they could be a crook’s getaway car or a way to get extra spending money at your expense.
               Tip – Never, ever leave a car running unattended or with your kids inside to run a quick errand or warm up the car. Don’t leave the keys in the car. Park in well-lit areas; avoid isolated parking.

Seasons Greetings
From Business Karate

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email



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