Black Friday is officially here and that means the holiday shopping season is kicking into high gear. It also means that thieves will be on the prowl, just waiting to spoil the fun.
To help make sure Westchase residents stay safe this holiday season, we’ve compiled some of the best advice offered by the Hillsborough and Pasco county sheriff’s offices.
While residents can count on deputies working hard to ensure their safety and will likely see increased patrols at shopping centers and malls, law enforcement officials say they can’t do it all on their own.
“It’s your turn to stay informed, alert and educated about your personal safety and the safety of your property,” say officials from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Here are some of that agency’s top tips for holiday shopping safety:
- When shopping, lock your car doors and roll up your windows. (For more car safety tips, watch our PSAs at http://www.hcso.tampa.fl.us/Articles/Articles/Lock-It-Up!.aspx)
- Limit the amount of cash you carry. If possible, pay for your purchases with a credit or debit card.
- Limit the amount of jewelry you wear.
- Keep your purse close to your body and your wallet in an inside jacket pocket if possible.
- Place all packages in your trunk so they are not visible to individuals walking close to your vehicle. Remember where you parked your vehicle and have your car keys in hand when approaching your vehicle.
- Don't leave cell phones, purses or other items in your parked car where they can be seen.
Holiday Time is Scammer Time, Too!
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office also warns holiday shoppers to be careful of scams.
“Confine your charitable giving to reputable, established organizations, preferably those with a local branch,” warns Cpl. Alan Wilkett. “Con artists will try to prey on your holiday cheer to convince you to give them money by telling you a tale of misfortune. Tell them you would like to contact law enforcement first to help check out their story. Don’t be surprised if they don’t stick around.”
ATM Safety is Critical
Hillsborough deputies also offer advice for those using ATM machines to withdraw cash during the holidays. They say residents should take these precautions when they’re at an ATM:
- Use one in a populated area and pay constant attention to your surroundings.
- If possible go during daylight hours.
- If anyone is lurking near the machine, pass it up and find another.
- Remember to retrieve your credit/debit card after transaction.
Safety At Home
Both agencies are also concerned about at-home safety.
“Keep the outside of your home well lighted with doors locked and window curtains closed,” Wilkett suggests. “Report any suspicious activity in your neighborhood. Don’t display gifts beneath the Christmas tree that can be seen from windows or doors. This can be a quick and easy heist for burglars, but a painful and sad crime against you.”
Hillsborough deputies offer this advice:
- Be cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave your home.
- Don't display gifts where they can be seen from a window or doorway.
- Leave a light or a television on when away from home so it seems the home is occupied.
- Be wary of strangers coming to your door asking for charitable donations.
- Do not leave boxes from gifts outside for the trash collector. Take them to a dumpster so that your house is not targeted by thieves that are looking for homes that have just bought new appliances, etc.
Do you take safety precautions during the holidays? Share your best tips in the comments below.