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The Sandy Spring Way

10 Holiday Season Safety Tips

November 12th, 2014 | By Sandy Spring Bank

By Rob Turano, SVP, Director of Corporate Security & Contingency Planning

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Situational awareness and common sense are the keys to holiday safety

For many of us, the holiday season is a time filled with family, friends, and community. It is also a hectic time of year as we hurry to finish our shopping and attend social events. As you enjoy all of the excitement of the season, it is important not to lose sight of a few common risks associated with this time of year. Unfortunately, criminals often take advantage of the holidays. People are traveling more frequently, making big purchases, and we’re all generally distracted by the holiday buzz.

As former law enforcement, I know that one of the best things you can do is to know your surroundings. This concept actually has a name: situational awareness. It is a frame of mind in which you are always aware of potential risks, as well as whom and what could help you if a problem arises. It’s the backbone of law enforcement training, and it helps law enforcement officers survive every day. When put into practice, situational awareness and good common sense are essential to personal safety.

With that in mind, here are 10 simple security measures to keep you safe this holiday season:

  1. Lock your house and car doors, and keep your windows secure. It sounds simple and makes sense, but a majority of reported offenses involve unlocked doors or unsecured windows.
  2. Report any type of suspicious person, vehicle or activity immediately. This includes around your home, neighborhood, shopping centers, and parking lots. If something seems out of place, your instincts are probably right. Always alert the appropriate law enforcement agency and/or merchants who are located where the activity is detected.
  3. Protect your debit and credit cards. Most fraud schemes and data breaches in card services occur at the Point of Sale (POS), or the moment you use your card. When using your ATM or debit card, always cover the keypad with your other hand to block someone else or a camera from viewing your PIN entry. Never buy anything online using your credit card from a website that is not secure; the URL for the site should start with HTTPS (the “S” stands for secure).
  4. Protect your information. Review your account statements and online banking regularly, and promptly report any errors to your financial institution. Never provide your card information to anyone over the phone when you did not initiate the call, and never email your credit card number.
  5. Shop before dark if possible. Coordinate your shopping trips with family and friends, or at least one other person. Never park in an unlit area, and keep parking areas at your home free of visual obstructions, such as high bushes or trees.
  6. Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car (e.g. purses, laptop computers, iPods, cell phones, etc.), because it creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight.
  7. Locate your keys prior to going to your car. Trying to find your keys once you have arrived at your vehicle diverts your attention away from your surroundings and provides a window of opportunity for you to become a victim.
  8. Do not overload yourself with packages and bags. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.
  9. Carry your cell phone during shopping trips. Often times in emergency situations, people become disoriented about their location. Most phones have a built-in GPS feature that can be activated when 911 is dialed. 911 centers can send help to a general location based on your cell phone’s GPS signal.
  10. Never invite strangers into your home. The holidays may have you feeling extra welcoming and inviting, but there are some people who are looking to take advantage of a situation and make you the victim of a crime.

Follow these basic tips, and your instincts, and you’re on your way to having a safe and happy holiday season!

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