One of the many reasons I eagerly awaited the Christmas Season while growing up was the chance to sit down in front of the TV and watch the classic Dr. Seuss cartoon, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Seeing this green creature slither around through the houses in Whoville, snatching up all the toys – even the Roast Beast – would evoke big laughs, especially because you knew that, in the end, even the mean old Grinch would have a change of heart and get swept up in the spirit of the season.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of evil hearted criminals in the real world who are just aching to take advantage of unwary shoppers at this time of the year. Don’t let them. Protect yourself.
Recently, Brookfield police issued a crime alert seeking help in breaking a suspected theft ring in area stores. The thieves, described as multiple white men ranging in age from about 40 to 65, have been targeting elderly women and the scam goes like this. One man distracts the victim by asking a question while the other removes the wallet from her purse. Several women had their purses and/or their wallets with their credit cards stolen in this way.
Some of the victims even made the thefts easier by foolishly walking away from their shopping carts and leaving their purses in the carts. One customer’s wallet, containing credit and identification cards, was taken from a purse at Panera’s on Greenfield Avenue and nearly $1,000 in charges were made on one of the stolen cards.
Shopping malls are another prime area where we all need to be on high alert for this type of crime. There’s plenty of hustle bustle with people more concerned about finding the right gifts and getting through the crowds than, perhaps, guarding against thieves. If you’re at the mall and then take your purchases to leave in your car, take steps to protect yourself.
Clearly, items left out in the open will be very easy to take with the “smash and grab” technique of breaking car windows and making off with valuables. Protecting yourself and your valuables really boils down to simple, common sense. Purchases should be left in a locked trunk, keeping in mind that this is not a 100 percent guarantee that the items will be safe. It takes mere seconds to smash a window, flip a seat down and access the items kept in the trunk. To the best of your ability, conceal items left in the front or back seats so they aren’t just out in the open.
Another step to take is to avoid parking your car in a remote spot where it’s actually easier for a thief to break in without being noticed. Park within a higher traffic area, closer to a store entrance, to make it more difficult for the thief to smash glass or pop a trunk open without being seen.
The most important items we all need to protect are our credit cards, driver’s licenses, check books and other items that contain our personal identification. Never, ever leave these items out of your sight.
Taking precautions and being smart about where and how you store valuables while you are shopping while safeguarding things like personal identification, credit cards and check books will improve your odds for having a safer, happier holiday shopping experience. Valuables can be found and returned or, if not, potentially could replaced with proper insurance. But the damage done by losing credit cards can be exponential and last a much longer time.
Finally, if you should experience that sinking feeling when discovering that someone has broken into your car, don’t touch anything in the vehicle. Notify the authorities, including the police and mall security, as quickly as possible. At a minimum, you want to file a police report even if nothing was stolen because this will give your insurance company the facts they need to handle your case.
Be smart and be safe. Don’t let society’s Grinches ruin your holiday spirit!