MADERA COUNTY – With less than two-dozen shopping days left to make this season merry and bright for family and friends, thieves are finding opportunities at every turn to relieve you of your holiday cheer.
With the hustle and bustle of shopping, and the chaos of stores and parking lots, there are many times when just a moment of inattention can present the perfect chance for someone to take all the ho-ho-ho right out of your Christmas.The Madera County Sheriff’s Office created a list for shoppers to check, so they can find out for themselves if they are doing all they can to avoid falling prey.
The title of the flyer the Office issues each year – “If I were a thief, you would now be a victim.” Sheriff Anderson has made you a list, now you should check it twice.
Protecting your vehicles and valuables stored inside:
* Don’t leave your car unlocked even if you know you will be gone for just a few minutes.
* Don’t leave purchased items in plain view inside your car. Instead, store them in the trunk of your vehicle where they can’t be seen.
* Don’t leave your vehicle unlocked when gassing up. You’ll have better peace of mind knowing your car is secure when filling your tank and paying at the pump.
* Don’t leave your car unlocked while driving. Thieves can easily open a door while you wait at a stoplight. Keep your doors locked at all times.
Protecting you and your valuables while shopping:
* Don’t place your purse in your shopping cart when shopping for gifts or groceries. Turn your back for just a second, and your bag may be gone.
* Don’t leave your purse in your cart when placing items in your car.
* Don’t place your personal effects on the hook of a restroom stall or on the floor where thieves can reach them. Instead, keep them close to you at all times.
* Always park in a well-lighted area.
* Always try to shop with a buddy.
* Always prepare your children about what to do in the event you become separated.
* Always have your keys in your hand when returning to your vehicle.
Protecting you from online scams:
* Beware of high-tech scams such as phony e-card greetings. If you receive an e-mail card and are advised to download the latest software to view it, don’t do it. You may be giving someone complete access to your computer.
* Phony lottery or sweepstakes notices that you’re a winner. You get an e-mail or phone message suggesting you visit a website or return the call to collect your prize. Don’t respond. Delete the message.
* Phony sales found online. Whether it’s eBay, Craigslist or any other venue, do your homework and find out if the company hosting these ads is legitimate.
Protecting your home
* Create open lines of communications with neighbors and businesses within your immediate area.
* Take outgoing mail and packages to the post office or courier. When away at the holidays, request that the post office hold your mail delivery and ask your neighbors to retrieve and hold packages that may be delivered to your home.
* Consider installing motion-detector lights around the outside of your home. Light timers also help if you’re away and when home. Lights often provide a deterrent, keeping would-be thieves at bay.
* When at home or away, always draw your shades to keep outsiders from looking in and previewing what and who’s inside.
* Keep windows and doors locked at all times. If you need to leave an extra key, don’t leave it in a flower pot or under the mat — leave it with a neighbor you know you can reach.
* Secure all doors with quality deadbolts and add bolts such as deadlatch to all windows and sliding glass doors.
* Vehicles stored in the garage should be locked at all times. Don’t ever keep those keys in plain view.
* Motion detectors can also serve as a deterrent. Set up timers to run at random inside your home which will the impression that someone is home.
* If you go on vacation, Citizens on Patrol conducts house checks. If you can’t reach a neighbor, call the sheriff’s department. But also let neighbors know if and when you may be gone. If a strange vehicle is seen in your driveway, neighbors will know to call 911.