Take precautions to ensure a safe and happy holiday season

Ron Craig, Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer

        As the holiday season is upon us, we all need to be aware of issues that can put a dent in the celebrations of Christmas, and New Year.
        It is human nature to exhibit a more giving heart during the holidays but be aware there are unscrupulous people who will take advantage of it. Being on guard against fraudulent activities is a year-round thing, and even more important this time of year.
        We have talked in the past about how to prevent being swindled out of your money, but during the holidays, you may receive calls from supposed charities about which you are unfamiliar—charities that ask you to make a holiday donation.
        Never make a donation to an unfamiliar charity without first checking it out with the Better Business Bureau. This agency tracks legitimate and not-so-legitimate charities, and they can inform you if they have received negative information about the one seeking a donaution from you.
        There are legitimate charities seeking donations around the holidays, but they may employ a business to make phone calls as part of the fundraising effort. Don’t hesitate to ask if you are speaking to the charity itself, or if you are talking to “an agent” representing the charity.
        If they tell you they are not the charity itself, you have a right to ask how much of your donation will actually be received by the charity. If you feel the amount the agent is keeping as a commission is too great, you can contact the charity directly and make a donation that will all go to its intended purpose.
        A watchful eye
        As you are out doing your holiday shopping with our fine local merchants, always be aware of your surroundings. Keep a watchful eye for suspicious persons, and if you are walking, don’t be afraid to duck into a business if you feel you are being followed. It is always best to have someone else with you as there truly is safety in numbers.
        Avoid carrying purses with long straps and keep the purse close. Never let it hang, as it makes an easy target for a quick grab-and-run theft. The same goes for packages you may be carrying—keep them close to your body.
        It may be a good idea not to carry your cellphone in your purse. If someone makes off with the purse, you would not have a way to call 9-1-1 if the thief has your phone. Also, a thief may be running away with valuable information that is on your cellphone.
        Men should keep wallets and credit cards in their front pockets, where they are much harder to steal.
        Keep on you only an amount of cash you absolutely need, using credit or debit cards for most of your purchases.
        If someone attacks you, give up the goods. You could be seriously hurt or worse if you fight back.
        Make frequent trips to your vehicle to place the packages securely inside and lock it. Put them in the trunk or in a covered area of an SUV. If your SUV is not equipped with a cover, take a blanket that closely matches the interior color of your vehicle and place the packages under the blanket or covering.
        If you must stop at an ATM to make a transaction, use a drive-up machine and try to do this during daylight hours. If that is not possible, stop only at an ATM in an area that is well lit.
        The holiday season is a season to be happy. Happiness starts with safety, and safety starts with you.
        This article is a public service from the Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.


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