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Practice safe shopping during holidays

ESCANABA — The holiday season is here, which means people are searching for the perfect gift in stores and online. Local law enforcement agencies remind shoppers to be aware of the increase chances of thefts and cyber crimes during the holiday season.

Michigan State Police Community Service Trooper Dale Hongisto, of the Gladstone Post, said there are not specific statistics to show an increase in larcenies during the holiday shopping season, but it makes sense they are more likely to occur because the holiday shopping season creates more opportunities.

Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald agreed, saying this time of year is easy for criminals to find targets to steal from with unattended packages delivered on porches and vehicles full of gifts outside stores.

Oswald added, although this time of year provides more opportunities, people should be diligent of possible thefts year-round.

Thefts from vehhicles are prevalent during the shopping season since people store their purchases in their vehicles between visiting stores.

According to Hongisto, people are more likely to have more valuables within their vehicles this time of year — be it money or gifts, so people should make sure to keep their vehicle doors locked and conceal items inside.

Oswald said when possible, people should always put items within the trunk of their vehicle.

Hongisto added at the first opportunity, people should bring the newly purchased valuables home.

Keeping an eye on valuables while still out and about shopping is another important tip.

According to Oswald, people need to be aware and keep an eye on their purses and shopping bags while in stores.

Nowadays more people are shopping online.

With an increase in online shopping and more and more delivery services moving away from needing signatures to drop off packages, many of valuable items are left unattended on porches and front steps, creating an opportunity for anyone to walk up and take items left there.

“The first thing that comes to mind in this day and age with … a large portion of people shopping online, packages are getting dropped off on your porch-step at all hours of the day and maybe nobody is home until you come home from work,” Hongisto said.

He explained people should talk with their neighbors or friends to either put packages inside your home, or take they to their home for safekeeping.

According to Oswald, there are also secure boxes people can purchase to place on their front porch for delivery services to put packages in.

Just like gifts can be stolen during the holidays, credit card information can be stolen, as well.

“Watch your credit card bills — pay close attention to them,” Oswald said. “Most credit cards now have a way to suspend your own credit cards right away if you see some type of suspicious activity.”

Hongisto added it is important to contact credit card companies as soon as there are unauthorized purchases found on billing statements.

Both Oswald and Hongisto noted it is of utmost importance for people to pay attention to the websites they are ordering gifts from and to become educated in what is and what isn’t a secure website.

A hint at knowing if a website is secure is by looking at the beginning of its url website. If a site has a “https” it means it has a SSL certificate, which encrypts your information so your connections are secure, and also has Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol that sites with just “http” lacks.

Oswald added there are companies, which are usually secure, that can also be victimized or hacked, so he reiterated how important it is to keep an eye on credit card information.

By following these safety tips, both Oswald and Hongisto said people should have a safe holiday shopping season.

“I want everyone to enjoy themselves, shop safely and remember these shopping tips,” Oswald said.

Hongisto added everyone from the Gladstone Post hopes for a safe holiday shopping season.

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