Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller is encouraging shoppers to stay safe this holiday season. “This time of year attracts more shopping-related criminal activity because of the larger crowds, the extended store hours & shorter daylight. These factors and the usual distraction of shopping create a more favorable environment for petty thieves and other offenders," says Sheriff Miller.
The Sheriff reminds all Onslow County residents to please follow these safety tips: According to Sheriff Miller “During this time of year, busy holiday shoppers become careless and vulnerable to other crimes as well. Credit card fraud and gift card fraud are on the rise. However, taking a few preventive measures can help.” In view of of these problems, Sheriff Miller warns shoppers to PLEASE be careful so that they don’t become the victim of criminal activity. “Unfortunately, when shopping, people have a tendency to let their guard down,” said Sheriff Miller. “However, paying attention and taking precautions can help eliminate their chances of being victimized. Situational awareness.”
- Please follow state and local health guidelines.
- Use hand sanitizer. Wash hands frequently.
- Promote social distancing when possible.
- A single shopper is too frequently a target for theft. Always shop with a friend or relative, if you can.
- When going shopping, tell someone where you are going and what time to expect you to return. Also, make sure they know what you are wearing, as well as the type of vehicle you are driving.
- Shop during daylight hours. If you shop at night, park your vehicle in a well-lit area.
- Dress casually and comfortably and avoid wearing expensive jewelry. If carrying cash, keep it in your front pocket rather than in a purse or wallet. This makes it much more difficult for a pickpocket to remove. Also, store car keys in your pants or jacket pocket. If your purse/wallet is stolen, you will still be able to drive home.
- Pay careful attention to your surroundings and avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps. (Situational awareness)
- When returning to your vehicle, look around it and in the back seat. Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Have your car keys in your hand to avoid spending unnecessary time unprotected from the security of your vehicle.
- If you feel uneasy returning to your vehicle alone, find a security guard or a trusted person and ask them to walk you to your car.
Credit Card Fraud
- Keep a close watch on your credit card every time you use it, and make sure you get it back as quickly as possible.
- Never write your PIN number on your credit card.
- Never leave your credit cards or receipts lying around.
- Shield your credit card number so that others around you can’t copy it or capture it on a mobile telephone or other camera.
- Only carry credit cards that you absolutely need.
- Shred anything with your credit card number written on it.
- If you’re planning to purchase online, make sure the web page where you enter your credit card information is secure through SSL (Secure Socket Layer). You can tell if the web page is secure by looking for the gold lock or key icon at the bottom corner of your browser window.
- If you’re not comfortable submitting your information through the internet, call the seller and give them your information over the telephone. Never send your credit card information via email.
- Check the company information. Only do business with legitimate companies that provide a physical address and telephone number.
- Keep good records. Always print out a copy of any online products or services you purchase.
- Frequently check your transaction records & immediately report any unknown/unauthorized transactions.
Gift Card Fraud
- Never buy gift cards from online auction sites. This is a large source of gift card fraud. Many of the gift cards are stolen, counterfeit or used.
- Only buy gift cards directly from the store issuing the gift card or from a secure retailer’s website.
- Don’t buy gift cards from publicly displayed racks in retail stores, because these are more susceptible to tampering or theft. Only purchase gift cards at the sales terminal from the cashier.
- Always carefully examine both the front and back of a gift card before you buy it. If you see a PIN number, ask for a different card. If the card looks like it has been tampered with in any way, do not purchase it.
- Always ask the store cashier to scan the gift card in front of you. This will guarantee that your card is valid when you buy it and that it reflects the balance you just charged on it.
- Always keep your receipt as a proof of purchase if there is money stored on the gift card.
- If possible, register your gift card at the store’s website.
- Never give your Social Security number, date of birth or any other unneeded private information when purchasing a gift card. No reputable company will ask for this information.
- Be aware that SCAMMERS will often ask fraud victims to pay “debts” or “fees” by asking those fraud victims to purchase gift cards & send the SCAMMERS the card or read the gift card numbers to them over the telephone, text or other electronic communication.