‘Tis the season to be careful when it comes to thwarting thieves who are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting citizens.
The holiday season is a criminal’s heyday as people are usually flush with cash and have gifts in their cars or homes.
In addition, people are often in a hurry and may not notice that they are being watched or targeted.
Riverside County law enforcement officials offer several tips to help the public stay safe and make it difficult for thieves to take advantage of them:
- Start by shopping smart. Always be aware of your surroundings and who is near you. Don’t become so engrossed in your shopping or check-out that you fail to see the person sliding up next to you or your cart. Never leave your purse or purchased items unattended in a cart, on a counter, or at a table…not even for “just a minute.” Thieves will look for easy targets and persons who may be inattentive to their belongings. That open purse or wallet next to you while you are making your purchase is an invitation for theft.
- Be mindful of your personal space. If you are “bumped” or someone just happens to slide up close to you, check your wallet or purse and make sure that you have not become the target of a thief.
- Watch your cards. Credit, debit, charge cards are easily “skimmed” by use of portable devices meant to quickly capture your card information. Your information can be later transferred to a magnetic strip on a different card and used for theft. The employee should be sliding your card right in front of you. If there is a need to move to a different register, go with them.
- Keep an eye on your accounts. Check your balances and statements often. Watch for any unauthorized activity and report it immediately if discovered.
- Don’t leave valuable items in your vehicle. Do your best not to use your car as a storage compartment. Thieves will target persons who load up their vehicle and then walk away. Keep any items out of plain sight.
One local resident had the unfortunate experience of being targeted by thieves a few years ago during the holiday season.
“I was shopping at Target and went to load my bags into the trunk of my car. I turned around for a small second and my purse was gone,” Menifee resident Cindy Bokma explained. “It was so upsetting. My purse was later found and all of my money was gone, every last cent.”
Bokma said she never leaves her purse unattended since falling prey to the purse snatcher.
Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy Albert Martinez advised people to pay attention when they are out and about running their holiday errands.
“Persons who are distracted by using their cell phones or texting often fall victims of robberies because they don’t see the suspects walking towards them,” Martinez explained.
Martinez added that sheriff’s officials see a spike in vehicle break-ins this time of year with thieves who pounce when people leave valuables in plain sight.
Bottom line? Be alert and be careful.
Stephanie D. Schulte is a writer/photographer with SWRNN. She can be reached at email@example.com.