Tomorrow is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which marks the first official shopping day of the Holiday Season. Most people have the day off, unless you work retail or if you are a thief. Criminals never get a holiday and this is their busy season. I have a few tips to
help you avoid being an easy mark for thieves.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Keep your packages and belongings with you at all times. Before you get in or out of your car, scan the parking lot to check to see if you are being watched or followed. Walk to your
destination quickly and confidently. Avoid looking like a "mark"
- If you carry a purse, use one that zips shut and with a strap that can be worn across your body. Try to minimize the amount of currency and plastic that you carry.
- Use a credit card and avoid debit cards where you need to key in your code. Make sure the person behind you is not close enough to read your card numbers.
- Keep your receipts in a safe place, separate from your purchases, in case your shopping bags are stolen.
- Keep track of your bank account activities by frequently checking online for any unaccounted activity.
- Have a list of credit cards and phone numbers to call and cancel cards if your purse or wallet is stolen.
I know first hand how easy it is to become a victim. This happened to me four years ago in early November. My car was broken into during prime-time for drop-off at a child care center. I was dropping off my youngest child and left my other two children who were 5 and 7 years old at the time in a locked car to save time. I was parked in the front row, parents were coming and going. I was only gone for a few minutes.
As I was racing back to my car, I saw a car full of people speeding away and one of my children waving frantically to me. As I ran to my car, I saw my other child crying and shattered glass everywhere!
I knew that there had been some car break-ins during odd times in the afternoon but never dreamed that this could be done during such a busy time. I had felt that if I was leaving my kids in a car, I could leave my purse. (and no, I did not leave the keys in the ignition! The keys were with me. I was asked that a lot. ) There was a parking lot full of people and no one saw anything. No one, except my poor kids!
The window was popped with a screw driver that was expertly jammed into the corner of the driver's side window. The window quietly shattered into a million tiny pieces. The parents coming and going did not notice the man leaning over the car window and the man with the screwdriver did not care about the children in the car. He only cared about my purse stuck under the passenger seat which he quickly grabbed.
Thankfully no one was hurt and I learned a big, painful lesson that day. In addition to the broken car window, I was left with an identity theft mess that took quite awhile to clear up.
It is amazing how much damage can be done with stolen checkbooks and credit cards! Even though my husband was still at home and was able to start calling my banks immediately, it took a few hours to get the credit cards shut down. The checking accounts took longer.
While I was getting my window fixed, I spent my time on the phone tracking activity. First the thieves went to a few gas stations and bought gas and cigarettes. Then onto the cellphone store for pre-paid cellphones. Then trips to several branches of my bank to cash other people's stolen checks, against my account.
Then onto several grocery stores and department stores. I was able to locate security camera footage at several of these places for the police and found that at least three different "crack whores" were using my ID.
An officer that I was in frequent contact with, ID'd the first thief from the gas station footage by her street name. Her last known address was a street corner.
It was at that point I decided I also needed a "street name". I became "Bad Momma"!