It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Situational Awareness is of the upmost importance. Be safe and Happy Holidays from your team at Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 2.

Information and Advice from HCCP2:

You are the greatest champion for your own safety. ~ Constable Chris Diaz

HOW DO I PREPARE FOR A SAFE HOLIDAY SEASON?

ANSWER:

Singer Andy William’s said it best when he said, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Holiday season is upon us and with it comes the shopping, the traveling and the decorating. It is a fun time to be enjoyed by all.  However, let’s not go sledding into this season unaware that criminals are also out there shopping…but what they’re shopping for is an opportunity to take advantage of your vulnerability.

It’s true.  As we speak, online thieves are waiting at the starting gate in bated anticipation of finding vulnerabilities in your computer systems they can take advantage of when you go online to buy that DVD player for Uncle John and that crystal vase for mom.  They’re hoping your firewalls are down so they can skim for your credit card numbers. Others have already drafted official-looking e-mails they plan on sending to a million mailboxes in hopes one person will open the e-mail and respond to their phishing scheme.

At the stores and in the busy parking lots, they are looking for unlocked doors and items of value left in plain sight.

And the worst of them are planning to follow families home when they return from shopping.

Whether it is the threat of fraud, burglary or home invasion, there are things you can do to protect yourself during this holiday season.  You are not powerless. Remember, just like police officers, you can do a lot to ensure your safety by employing something called “Situational Awareness”.  Believe it or not, you probably have already starting using it while reading this article.

Situational Awareness is just a fancy term for “being aware of your surroundings”.  While reading the initial passages of this article, did you find yourself envisioning the criminals above?  Did you picture yourself being followed home?  Did you start to envision your response if it happened?  Voila! You’re utilizing Situation Awareness.

Believe it or not, the best way to be aware of your surroundings is to start by playing out scenarios in your mind of how you’d imagine those criminals would seek to victimize you.

With that done, now you seek for ways they can’t.

Here are some simple tips you can follow that can enhance your safety:

_ When shopping online, make certain to do your research before committing to the purchase. Is the website secure (i.e. a website that begins with https)? This usually doesn’t come into play until you reach the payment portion of your online purchase.  This simply means the merchant has taken those steps necessary to make the transaction a secure one.

_ Never open an e-mail from someone you don’t know.

_ Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know, no matter how good the offer sounds.

_ If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

_ Be suspicious of everything and trust your inner alarm. If it doesn’t “feel right”, don’t complete the transaction. Remember, there are thousands of trusted vendors out there.

_ While walking to your vehicle, keep one hand free and your keys ready.

_ Look around. Criminals love people who walk blindly to their vehicles chatting on a cell phone.

_ If it’s late, call store security for an escort. Nowadays, retailers realize the issues of crime during the holiday season and offer enhanced security.

_ Think ahead. You may arrive at the mall when the sun is out, but it may be dark when you’ve finished shopping. Park in well-lit areas that are within sight of other shoppers.

_ Never leave gifts or valuables in view.

_ Remember where you parked.

_ Be mindful of strangers and groups that linger nearby.

_ If you can, shop with a partner or in a group.

_ When driving home, watch the rearview mirror to see if you are being followed. Change your route.

_ When approaching your house, pass it before pulling in to the driveway or at the curb. If anyone is following you, it will become immediately apparent when you turn back toward your residence and they do the same.

_ Prepare your house for the arrival home. Make certain that the outside lights are on if you expect to return home after dark.  Scan your residence from a distance to make certain no one is hiding nearby.

_ Let someone you trust know where you’re going and when you plan to return.

_ Keep your phone nearby in case you need to dial 9-1-1.

Remember, this list is far from all-inclusive. You are the greatest champion for your own safety.  Be safe and Happy Holidays from your team at Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 2.

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