Holiday Havoc: shopping safe this season


The holidays are a time of cheer, giving and “out with the old, in with the new” celebrations. The sweet relief of being done with final exams, shopping, partying with friends and traveling throws even the most aware person into a tailspin of excitement. This can result in people being less aware of their surroundings and not as focused on safety.

The VCU Police Department knows all too well the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the fun that goes with them. We also know how to increase your chances of keeping plans successful — and safe — from criminal activity.

While “Tis the Season” for shopping, it is also the season for theft, robbery and fraud. Many people will shop online — making them a prime target of fraud. Criminals are looking to hack accounts and get your financial information. VCUPD suggests that online shoppers:

  1. Use a secure Internet browser to ensure that personal information is safeguarded when being transmitted.
  2. NEVER provide your social security number or bank account number.
  3. Utilize a Pay Pal account or credit card to make purchases. Avoid paying by check card. Check your monthly statement for errors or unauthorized charges.
  4. Know the company’s privacy and refund policies.

While online shopping means no crowds and no lines, it also means tons of home deliveries.  A Grinch will steal your joy right from your doorstep.

While crimes of stolen packages are on the rise this time of year, there are precautions you can take to insure grandma and grandpa get their gifts. There are ways to lessen your chances of becoming a victim.

Law enforcement recommends requiring a signature upon delivery and opting to have packages delivered to your job or an alternate location if you won’t be home. Some parcel companies even offer text and email notifications for easy tracking. After all, the delivery person may not be the only person to show an interest in your packages.

While most people want a bargain, it’s suggested that they splurge a little and get packages insured. The extra security may help recover the cost of your items.

In any instance, should you find the Grinch visited you, file a police report and notify the shipper immediately.

The roads will be busy and the parking lots even more so. Unattended vehicles become magnets for thieves. Here are some tips to make sure your goods make the trip home for the holidays:

  1. Use your trunk – never leave items in plain view.
  2. Visit home frequently – make a special trip to drop off big purchases or numerous items before continuing shopping.
  3. Park in well-lit areas and travel with a buddy when shopping at night.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings when entering and exiting your vehicle and parking spaces.
  5. Avoid distractions by using hands- free devices.
  6. Use a remote locking /unlocking mechanism for car doors or have the key ready when approaching your vehicle.
  7. Make sure the “Follow me Home” feature is set for your vehicle lights so your path will be lit when exiting your car.

Criminals are savvy and look for opportunities everywhere they go. VCU Police encourages you to use indoor ATMs and to avoid large cash withdrawals. Also avoid the temptation to ditch your receipt at the machine. Do that at home.

Con artists are also on the prowl and hope to pull on your heartstrings. Avoid the tug by only giving to charitable organizations you are familiar with. Verify the validity of organizations you do not know BEFORE donating to their cause.  Decline the door-to door solicitor and NEVER make donations over the phone.

Safety is a priority and is necessary to make sure you enjoy your holidays. It is easy to get side-tracked and lose sight of our surroundings. A little preparation in the beginning will save each of us disappointment and frustration in the end.

The VCU Police Department is dedicated to helping keep the community safe. We hope each of you notes our tips to make safety a priority this season.

Column by: VCU Police Sgt. Nicole Dailey, Crime Prevention Unit

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