holiday safety tipsWhether you’re traveling or staying home for the holidays, it’s important to take some necessary precautions to keep you and your family safe from would-be scammers, identity thieves and home invaders. Given how hectic this time of year can be, it may be difficult to take every possible precaution; however, following even a few of these tips can be useful and make your holiday both safe and enjoyable. Keep reading to learn about five holiday safety tips to keep in mind as you make your plans.

Limit your usage of social media

Holidays are a time of sharing, and so instinctively one of the first things we might want to do is to share posts and pictures on social media. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this, as in many cases this behavior can become an advertisement to tell evildoers the quality of gifts you’ve received, your vacation plans and much more. To a potential thief or a jealous acquaintance, social media posts can serve as an invitation to burglarize your home. That’s why it’s smart to take precautions like avoiding posting content that uses geolocation as well as content that shows the interior of your home and the gifts you’ve received. It’s also important to take a look at the privacy settings of your various social media profiles to make sure you aren’t broadcasting to the world. Parents should talk to their kids about what is and isn’t appropriate to share about their holiday gifts and travels.

Be wary of unannounced visitors

Given that the holidays are a time of spreading cheer, it’s not surprising that homes and businesses may see an uptick in door-to-door visitors – carolers, charities and maybe even community organizations might stop by unannounced. While this isn’t inherently bad, in today’s world we have no idea of knowing if people are who they say they are. For example, visitors asking for donations could be burglars bent on catching a glimpse of the inside of your home, secretly noting what hours you tend to be there. It’s also important to keep in mind the potential for charity scammers to target people during the season of giving — rather than handing over cash or a check at your doorstep, consider taking a brochure and investigating the organization or cause before donating. You should use common sense and your judgement to vet any visitors who stop by.

Invest in a home security system (or make it look like someone’s home)

While home security systems aren’t the only method of deterring burglars, they are definitely one of the best ways to do so. Depending on how frequently you might be away from home, investing in one could be worth the money. Many of the top-rated home security systems offer features like home automation, which allows you to remotely monitor your home from afar, and cellular control panels, which keep your security system enabled at all times (even during a power outage). While it’s actually the summer months which have the highest rates of burglary, the winter holidays are also lucrative for delinquents of all kinds, and it can be a big relief to have a security system on your side.

Whether or not you have a home security system, there are still some other things you can do to help make your home a bit more secure. If you plan to be away for any long periods of time, make sure that you don’t leave any tools out in the open — such as ladders or pliers — which someone could use to help them break in (and be sure to lock your windows and doors). Also, make sure to keep your yard trimmed and any entrances into your home clear so that it not only looks like someone who cares about their property is home, but also doesn’t provide a jungle of cover for a would-be thief. Have a neighbor or friend collect your mail or put it on hold with the post office so it doesn’t tip off anyone that you aren’t at home. Leaving for a short period of time? Leave the TV or radio on or set your lights on a timer to make it look like someone is home.

Keep in mind the time of day you leave home

One of the more important things you should consider is what time you plan on being away from home during the holidays and how long you will be gone. Given that burglars are opportunistic, for the most part they wait until nobody’s home in order to make their move. Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, the vast majority of residential burglaries don’t take place under the cover of darkness. FBI burglary statistics consistently show that thieves favor daytime break-ins (when, presumably, everyone is out). A 2010 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests that the most popular times for break-ins are between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. — essentially, prime working and schooling hours. Knowing this information might be useful in helping you plan your outings.

Stay alert when you’re shopping

Even when you’re shopping, safety and caution are equally as important. Stores, malls and shopping centers can be conducive to both physical theft as well as identity theft. Since parking lots are jam-packed this time of year, beware leaving documents or mail with your identifying information where it can be easily accessed if a thief breaks into your car. You should keep your goods hidden out of sight if you have to leave them in the car. In addition, when making purchases or withdrawing cash from the ATM, make sure you cover the screen and pin pad of the terminal and remain on the lookout for signs of tampering. Remember, if you don’t feel safe using a debit card, you can always make your holiday purchases with a credit card, given that most of them offer $0 fraud liability protection in case of misuse by a thief.

These holiday safety tips are just some of the ways you can protect your home and your family. Want to know more? Check out our home security blog.