Holiday safety tips (online scam edition)

From the Athens-Clarke County Police Department:

Although this release is long it contains a lot of tips that can help prevent you from becoming the victim of a crime. We want everyone to have a safe and wonderful holiday season. Please help us keep you safe by reading and following these suggestions.

 Leaving for the holidays

 The holiday season is upon us and many students and residents will be leaving their homes unattended for an extended period of time. We will take every opportunity and make every effort to provide excellent service to our citizens and students by conducting frequent patrols and partnering with The University of Georgia Police. But we need your help to accomplish this. We encourage citizens who leave town to take preventive measures to help ensure they are not victimized.

 • Lock all doors and windows before leaving. If you have a sliding glass door, place a dowel or a sliding door lock in the channel. Close blinds and curtains.
 • If you have an alarm system, set it whenever you leave - especially for extended periods of time. Make sure your alarm company has current emergency contact information for you.
 • Use a timer for lights or leave some lights on when you leave.
 • If you leave for the holidays, take high value items with you. Larger items could be moved to a closet to conceal them. (Items frequently stolen in burglaries are laptops, flat screen TVs, gaming systems, iPods, iPads, and jewelry.) Make sure you record model and serial numbers of all electronic equipment. If this information is available it will be helpful if your property is stolen and later recovered.
 • Ask friends or neighbors to keep an eye on your residence. Have someone pick up mail and newspapers as well as change the location of any vehicles left behind.
 • During the holiday season many people order online and have the items delivered to their home. Packages are also sent to people who cannot travel to be with family. Thieves are aware of this and they ride around neighborhoods looking for packages left at residences. If you expect a delivery, and are not able to be at home, have a neighbor or friend watch for and pick-up the packages.

 • Park in well lighted areas if possible. Place valuables (purse, laptops, cell phones, etc.) in the trunk or cover them in the back seat.
 • Do not leave a purse unattended in a shopping cart. Keep it close to you at all times. Do not carry large sums of money in your purse. If it is snatched, let it go. It is not worth fighting with the suspect and being injured or worse. Do not flash large sums money around while shopping.
 • As you walk to your vehicle after shopping, always be aware of your surroundings. Watch for people lurking around vehicles. If you see someone who looks suspicious or out of place, go to an area where there are other people. As you approach your vehicle have your keys in your hand – don’t be fumbling around trying to find them in your purse. Be ready to open the door and quickly place your bags in the trunk. If you plan to do additional shopping, consider moving your vehicle to another location in the event someone is watching you. On-line shopping
 • Black Friday/Cyber Monday specials – There are a variety of scams to get buyers to click on links or open attachments. Criminals build copies of well-known sites and send emails promoting great deals. They take your credit card information but you never receive the goods. If the site has great discounts that should be a red flag that something is not right. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Go to the company’s website through your browser and check to see if the offer is legitimate. Complimentary Vouchers or Gift Cards
 • Watch out for offers for discounts on gift cards that are on social media. Think before you click on offers or attachments about gift cards or vouchers. Shipping Notices from UPS and FedEx
 • These companies do not send emails with tracking information. That information will come from the vendor. If you do receive a tracking number, log into the carrier’s web site and check for yourself. When clicking on one of these fake sites, your computer might be infected with a virus or ransomware which holds your files “hostage” until you pay them money.

 Holiday Refund Scams
 • These emails appear to come from retail chains or e-commerce companies such as Amazon or eBay claiming there's a "wrong transaction." You are prompted to click on a refund link. When you do that, you are asked to fill out a form that asks for personal information. This information will then be sold to cyber criminals who use it against you. Never pay online with a debit card, only use credit cards. If the debit card is compromised, the criminals can empty your bank account quickly. Phishing on the Dark Side
 • A new phishing email is being circulated that tricks people into thinking they can win tickets to the new Star Wars movie due out next month. These emails are phishing attacks. Public Wi-Fi • When using a credit card to shop online, never use public Wi-Fi. Shop only with a secure connection at home. Additional tips
 • Check the Athens-Clarke County Police Department website (www.athensclarkecounty.com/police) or The University of Georgia Police website (www.police.uga.edu) Thanks to the Athens-Clarke County Computer Information Services for the on-line shopping tips!!