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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

Take simple steps to stay safe over holiday season

Lady Lake Police Chief Chris McKinstry

As the holiday season approaches, many Lady Lake residents will be gathering with family and friends to celebrate. Whether you are traveling out of town or hosting festivities at home, the Lady Lake Police Department wants you to be safe. Here is a security checklist to help protect your home and family.

Before you leave town it is important to make sure your home appears occupied. Place timers on your lights and set them to turn on and off at different times. Lock your garage door and disconnect the automatic opener. Most importantly, tell a trusted neighbor that you are going to be away and ask them to dial 911 immediately if they see anyone on your property.

Here are some additional home security tips to keep in mind:

  • Install good locks on all doors and windows and always use them.
  • Stop newspaper and mail deliveries, and never hide a spare key outside,
  • Give that spare key to a trusted neighbor and provide them with an emergency telephone number where they can reach you.
  • Have someone mow your lawn if you’ll be away more than a couple of weeks.
  • Turn down your telephone ringer so no one outside can hear repeated rings, and never leave a message on your telephone answering machine stating you are out of town.
  • Leave your window blinds as you normally would if you were home.
  • Invite your neighbor to park their car in your driveway or have a friend move yours if you left it at home.
  • Do not post holiday travel plans on social networking sites.

Even if you are not planning to travel, the holidays are also a time when thieves and con artists are frequently on the prowl. Here are some tips from the Lady Lake Police Department to help keep your home, your car, your possessions, and your family safe.

Keeping Your Home Safe

  • We all want our homes to reflect the joy of the season, but avoid displaying gifts where they can be seen from a window or doorway.
  • Arrange to have packages delivered to a neighbor if you’re not home to receive them.
  • Packages left on porches or doorsteps are “easy picking” for thieves. It also draws unwanted attention to your home.
  • Consider simple outside decorations. Elaborate or large lawn pieces are sometimes stolen right off the lawn.
  • Be sure not to obscure the view from your windows. You need a clear view of your property.
  • Always lock your home’s doors and windows, even if you’re only gone for a few minutes.
  • Compact or dispose of packaging discreetly. Often criminals will spot something you’ve discarded and can target you for their next burglary or theft.

Staying Safe While Shopping

  • Always lock your car and close the windows, even if you’re only gone a few moments. When possible, lock all merchandise or packages in the trunk of your car. Load your packages before departing, not at the next destination.
  • Shop with at least one partner. Have your car or house key in your hand as you approach the door.
  • Stay alert to your surroundings and the people around you. Look inside your car and around it as you approach.
  • Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse under your arm. Keep wallets in an inside pocket.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Avoid street vendors or people that flag you down with a “great deal” — many times these hucksters are selling stolen or unlicensed merchandise.
  • Plan your trips. Instead of one big shopping trip, try several small ones. This will cut down on the amount of money you carry, the packages you’ll be encumbered with, and it will make your shopping less stressful.
  • Walk everywhere with a sense of purpose – show you are calm, confident and know where you are going.
  • Park in well-lighted areas that will be well-lighted when you return.

Expecting packages shipped to your home this holiday season? You’re not the only one… scammers are, too.

The “delivery failure notification” email has been around for a while, but given the increase in deliveries during the holiday season, it is sure to make a comeback.  The notification looks like it’s from the U.S. Postal Service — but it’s not. The email says you missed a delivery. But, it says, if you print the attached form and take it to your local post office, you can pick up your package and avoid penalties. The message might also include a link for more details.

Here’s the truth: the email is bogus and there is no package. And if you download the attachment or click on a link, you’re likely to end up with a virus or malware on your computer or mobile device.

Con artists often use the names and logos of familiar organizations to get under your guard. So how do you tell what’s legit and what’s a scam? Here are some ways to spot a bogus email:

  • It tells you to click on a link or download an attachment
  • It urges you to take immediate action
  • It asks you to “re-confirm” personal or financial information

Another sure sign an email is a scam? If you hover over the link in the email, it won’t show the official website of the supposed sender — in this case, the U.S. Postal Service website.

It becomes more and more difficult to protect yourself from scams, but remaining vigilant is certainly the most important factor in not becoming a victim.

As you celebrate with your loved ones this season, please remember to give thanks for all those who serve in the armed forces and are not fortunate enough to be home with their families.

On behalf of the men and women of the Lady Lake Police Department, I wish you all a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

Chris McKinstry is chief of police in Lady Lake.

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