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The 12 crimes of Christmas and what you can do to stay safe this silly season

With the countdown to Christmas well and truly on, we have asked Crime Stoppers SA for some tips on how you can stay safe this festive season.

Check out these handy crime prevention and safety tips.

1. Protect your parcels

Uncertainty around COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions have seen eCommerce boom across the country, with spending by Australians recording a 29% month-on-month increase from March to April this year when lockdowns began.

As we head into the busiest time of year for postal deliveries, it’s important to do all you can to avoid becoming a victim of parcel theft by taking a few simple steps:

  • Get packages delivered to a place where someone can physically receive them.
  • Make sure to sign for deliveries or indicate a secure location where they can be left.
  • Provide clear delivery instructions and ask for packages not to be placed at your front door.
  • If you’re not going to be home, arrange to collect the parcel from a depot or have it redirected to an address of someone you trust.
  • Report any suspicious behaviour – such as a car following a courier van or an unexpected visitor who knocks on your door asking for someone you don’t know.

2. Watch out for fraudsters

Online shopping is convenient for Christmas shopping but be careful transacting online to avoid identity theft. Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge, to obtain credit or purchase goods or services – and technology advances mean that criminals have a variety of methods at their disposal.

Here’s some ways to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:

  • Shred documentation that has personal information, especially bank and credit card statements and old bills.
  • Don’t leave personal documentation in your car.
  • Use strong passwords that are hard to guess.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone, internet or even face-to-face unless you have initiated the contact and can verify that the person or organisation is legitimate.
  • Secure your letterbox so only you can access your mail.
  • Monitor your transactions and check bank statements or your bank account regularly to make sure there are no unauthorised transactions and contact your financial institution immediately if something is not right.

Credit cards and eftpos

  • Immediately advise your bank if your card is lost or stolen, especially because ‘contactless’ technology allows transactions without a PIN or a signature up to a limit.
  • Have different PINs for each card and choose them carefully. Don’t write your PIN down or keep it in the same place as your cards.
  • Never share your PIN with anyone and be alert when entering it at an ATM or during a shop transaction.
  • Destroy old cards and sign news ones as soon as you receive them.
  • When you move to a new house, make sure to update your address with your financial institution.

3. Put the brakes on burglars

Most thieves act on opportunity and Christmas can be a lucrative time for them, so the easiest way to reduce the chance of becoming a victim is to remove the temptation:

  • Secure your house, vehicle, shed and garage at all times.
  • Don’t leave a spare key hidden outside.
  • Invest in an alarm and security lighting.
  • Keep valuables and wrapped presents out of view.
  • Make the house look lived in using lights on automatic timers and have someone collect the mail.
  • Make sure plants and trees close to doors and windows are well trimmed so thieves have no place to hide.
  • Mark your possessions so they can be easily identified if recovered.
  • Record serial numbers and take photos of unique items such as jewellery and provide a copy with your insurance company.
  • Keep important documents and valuation certificates in a secure place, such as a safe or leave copies with a trusted friend or relative.

4. Make sure to shop safely

Shopping can be stressful, but social distancing and uncertainty over changing restrictions adds a new layer of complexity when battling the Christmas crowds. Seasonal shopping can also make you a potential target for thieves, so consider a few simple precautions:

In the shops

  • Don’t leave shopping to the last-minute rush.
  • Only carry essential identification or valuables and make sure they’re secure.
  • Make sure your bag is closed, held in front of you where possible and never left unattended.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings and if someone bumps into you, immediately check your valuables.
  • When making a transaction using your card, never let it out of your sight and be wary about who is nearby when entering your PIN.
  • Pay attention to who is around you and report any suspicious activity.

In the car park

  • Always park in a safe location with good lighting and people around.
  • Make sure all doors and windows on your vehicle are secure.
  • Remove all valuables where possible or put things out of sight – including any coins.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity.
  • Don’t leave GPS systems or mobile phone hands-free accessories on display.

5. Buckle up!

Whether it’s in a car or a sleigh pulled by 12 reindeers, wearing a seatbelt is one of the best ways to protect yourself from serious injury. Always ensure a seatbelt is adjusted firmly to keep you safe and sound. It is a driver’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers in their motor vehicle are correctly wearing an approved seatbelt or child restraint.

For more information on child restraints visit www.mylicence.sa.gov.au

6. Be social, not anti-social

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been anything but a normal year, so Christmas should be a time to pay extra attention to the people around you and think before you act. For a minority in the community it appears that one too many drinks suddenly encourages wilful damage and nuisance behaviour, which can be very distressing for others nearby.

What might seem like harmless fun to those involved, can leave others feeling fearful and unsafe – especially when it escalates to physical damage, graffiti, yelling and rowdy behaviour – so be kind this Christmas.

7. Drink responsibly

Don’t let over-indulgence in alcohol make it a less than merry Christmas because it contributes to making very poor decisions. Drinking excessively can also make someone increasingly vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime or physical trauma.

If you are going out, then plan to drink responsibly by:

  • Arranging safe transport to and from your location, whether that is a designated sober driver, taxi or bus.
  • If you are paying for your transport, make sure that you put the money aside at the start of the evening so that you don’t spend it and find yourself stranded.
  • When going out with a group, stay with that group and look out for one another.
  • For every alcoholic drink you have, consider having a glass of water or non-alcoholic drink.
  • Never lose sight of your drink to avoid it being spiked. If you happen to lose sight of your drink at any time, throw away what is left and get a fresh one – and never accept a drink handed to you by a stranger.

8. Keep your cool

While Christmas is a time for enjoying the company of family and friends, it can also be a period where family violence can occur. Family get-togethers, financial pressures and alcohol indulgence can see tempers fray, so think about ways to keep your cool:

  • Planning is critical, especially when different family groups are involved or where separated parents with children are having access issues.
  • Go easy if you are drinking, and make sure you have water or non-alcoholic drinks too.
  • If an argument looks like it may start, then take time out to let everyone calm down or sober up.
  • If you have real concerns for your safety or the safety of your children, then leave the situation immediately and seek help if needed.

9. Make your safety a priority

In the weeks leading up to Christmas it can be a whirlwind of get-togethers and parties – which is why it’s important to also consider your personal safety through a few basic precautions:

If you are going out for the evening:

  • Let someone know where you are going and what time you are likely to return home.
  • Arrange safe transport to and from home, whether that is a designated sober driver, taxi, bus or dial-a-driver.
  • Never accept a lift from someone you don’t know or have just met.
  • If a friend has had too much to drink, make sure they get home safely – don’t just put them into a taxi or leave them.
  • When out, walk home with friends and not on your own and keep to well-lit areas.
  • Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.
  • If someone is acting suspiciously or making you feel unsafe then move to a location where others are around, seek assistance if needed and stick to well-lit public areas.
  • Don’t drink and drive and never get into a vehicle when you know or suspect that the driver has been drinking.
  • Keep your valuables close to you and out of sight from others, keep an eye on your drink and never accept a drink from a stranger.
  • Drink water or a non-alcoholic drink with every alcoholic one.
  • Stay with your friends and look out for one another.

10. Don’t get distracted

Don’t forget that it is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. If you can’t resist the temptation then turn it off then it won’t ring or distract you.

There are a number of free mobile phone apps which help remove the urge to check your phone by sending your caller an automatic message letting them know you are driving and will return their call when you arrive at your destination.

Many people will be heading off for that end-of-year road trip, which is why staying patient and alert on our roads will help to make sure everyone reaches their destination safely. To reduce the risks on our roads this Christmas:

  • Ensure everyone is belted in safely.
  • Rest well before your trip, stay alert, share the driving and take plenty of breaks.
  • Allow extra travel time in case of any unforeseen hold-ups. Arriving a bit early is better than having a crash because you were rushing against a deadline.
  • Recognise that changing music, monitoring pets, arguing kids, loose items in the car, and eating can all be dangerous distractions.
  • Switch off your phone or pull over and stop before you make or receive calls or messages.
  • Watch your speed and drive to changing conditions.
  • Have your car serviced or do basic maintenance checks – oil, water, wiper blades and tyres.

11. Don’t drink and drive

Drink and drug driving is a major contributor to road crashes, so if you drink or have taken drugs, then the safest option is to not get behind the wheel. And remember, if you’ve had a big night drinking you may still be over the limit the next day, while drugs can remain in your system for a number of days.

If you are going out and want to drink – arrange to stay over, or have a nominated sober driver, taxis, public transport, or car-share option in place. Never get into a vehicle when you know the driver has been drinking or taking drugs.

12. Don’t get scammed

From spyware to dodgy online merchants, the threat of online fraud is real – and you are the best line of defence. The key to combating the scammers is knowing what threats exist and taking easy steps to beat them:

Internet shopping

  • Install security and virus software on your computer and password protect documents containing personal information.
  • when purchasing goods online, make sure you make payments and provide details in a secure area of the website and don’t use computers that are accessible to the public.

Email and postal scams

  • If you receive an email or letter suggesting you are a winner and you need to provide personal information or advance fees to claim your prize, then chances are it is a scam.
  • Some scams ask you for a loan to help access a larger sum of money and promise a greater return, while others pull heart strings over an alleged medical emergency.
  • Cyber criminals pretend to be from trustworthy organisations, using logos from banks, financial institutions and trusted companies to trick you into sharing sensitive information. If you are asked for personal data or bank account details, then treat it like a scam and contact your bank direct to check.

More information on common scams and how to protect yourself can be found at https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/get-help/protect-yourself-from-scams

We hope you stay safe this Christmas, thanks to these handy tips from Crime Stoppers SA and have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!