Safe Online Shopping

        Shopping online offers lots of benefits that you won’t find shopping in a store or by mail.  The internet is always open—seven days a week, 24 hours a day—and bargains can be numerous online.  With the click of a mouse you can buy an airline ticket, book a hotel, send flowers to a friend, or purchase your favorite fashions.  The following tips can help you stay secure while doing your shopping online:  

  • Know who you are dealing with.  Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name.  Confirm the seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems.  Contact the seller promptly if you have any problems with your order.
  • Beware of pop-up windows and sudden emails.  If you get an email or pop-up message while you’re browsing that asks for financial information, don’t reply or click on the link in the message.  Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email.  In fact, clicking on the link in the email might allow spyware on your system.  Giving out confidential information via pop-ups or email can also lead to fraud or identity theft.  Delete any suspicious emails, and close unwanted pop-ups by clicking on the “x” box in the top right corner—never click inside the pop-up window itself.
  • Know exactly what you are buying.  Read the seller’s description of the product closely, especially the fine print.  Words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with “too good to be true” prices could be counterfeits.
  • Know what it will cost.  Check out websites that offer price comparisons, and then (more…)

How to Protect Yourself and Your Valuables While Staying in a Motel Or Hotel

One place people occasionally become crime victims, is while staying in hotels-motels. When planning your trip, consider the location of the hotel/motel where you will be staying. Obviously you want to avoid staying in locations in the "bad" part of town, which you would be more likely to find in the larger cities. Check with your travel agent if you aren't sure. Or you can try calling the police department in the city you will be visiting and asking for someone in crime prevention or community services. Frequently the police will be hesitant to recommend a specific hotel, but they should be able to tell you which location they would feel safe staying in if they were on vacation in that city.

When you make your reservation, request a room near the elevator. Often hotels will book rooms starting in the far corners of each floor, and working in. You probably don't want to be stuck in the farthest corner. Your room may be more likely to be burglarized the farther it is away from the central area. By taking a room near the elevator, there will be more activity past your room day and night. The theory is that a burglar may be reluctant to break into your room, or enter with a key, if there is a chance that the elevator door will pop open any second and he'll be caught in the act.

Here is where police and fire personnel disagree. Firemen will tell you to take a room on the ground floor, so in case of fire it will be easy for you to escape out a window. That also means it will be relatively easy for a criminal to break into your room and rape, rob or kill you. For that reason, police advise against taking a room on the main floor. So maybe you can compromise. When you reserve your room, take one on the second floor. That way it will be harder for a burglar to get in, and it won't be so far for you to jump, and easier for fire personnel to reach you, in case of a fire. Obviously you don't want to be carrying valuables with you when you are traveling. But if you are, (more…)

How to Prevent Thefts During Holiday House Parties

By Sergeant Mark Buschena

The holiday season is a prime time for parties in the home.  It’s hard to imagine that someone you invite into your home for a party would commit a crime, but it’s true. And the larger your party, the more likely something will get stolen or damaged.  Thefts during a party can be greatly reduced by following these simple precautions:

1.    Put your valuables away in safe places.  Your bedroom is an obvious place for thieves.  I can probably predict to within a few square feet where your valuables are in your home.  Ladies, yours are in the bedroom, on top of your dresser, or in the top drawer.  This is where you keep your jewelry, watches, wallets, purses and other valuables.  Men, if you’ve got firearms, you’ve got them stored where you can get your hands on them at night, so I’d look in the nightstand near the bed.  Thieves know this too.  So when you have a party, lock-up these items, hide them or lock your bedroom door (if you’ve got a lock on the door more substantial than one that can be picked with a bobby pin.)

2.    Be a good host and collect your guests’ coats when they arrive and retrieve them from wherever they were kept when your guests leave.  This helps prevent people from wandering through your home.

3.    Only allow invited guests into your home.  Uninvited guests may not be well known to you, and may not respect you or your property.  The real trouble begins when you invite the whole bar crowd to your home at closing time.

4.    Keep the number of guests to a manageable number and keep the activities centrally located.  The more people you have in your home, the greater the chance for loss.

Most of us would never dream of committing a crime in a friend’s home, holiday time or not.  Police Department files are full of reports from victims who were ripped off by their supposed “friends” during parties.  Don’t give a thief the chance to commit a “crime of opportunity.”  Before your next gathering, take a few steps to keep your property “party-proof.”

Sgt.  Mark Buschena is the author of  “The Naked Truth About Personal Protection.”  Check it out at

Prevent Your Child From Becoming Lost While Shopping

By Sergeant Mark Buschena

You are shopping with your child.  You turn around, and your child is gone.  What do you do?  Losing your child can be a parent’s worst nightmare.  And with stores and malls crowded with Christmas shoppers, it may be even more difficult to keep track of your children while shopping with them.

The preparation for keeping your children safe while shopping begins long before you get to the mall.  Teach your children that if you are lost or separated, to STAY IN THE STORE!  Don’t go out into the lot, or back to the car to wait for mom or dad.  In the lot they are much too vulnerable to traffic and weather.  Stay in the store.

Before you go shopping, decide with your children on a spot in the store t o meet if you get separated.  Make it something easy, like the ice-cream counter.  They should be able to remember that.

While we teach our children not to talk to people they don’t know, if they get lost they should know who to go to for help.  Teach children that if they need help in a store, to find a person who works at the check-out (or in children’s terms “where you pay.”)  You can also teach your children to look for someone wearing a nametag, or a uniform shirt, smock or vest (like the red or blue ones in some of the larger retail chains.)  And dialing 9-1-1 is always an option, provided the child can find a telephone.  (And remember, you don’t need a quarter to dial 9-1-1 from a payphone, the call is free.)

Parents can also help by making a mental note of what their children are wearing, not only when shopping, but everyday.  In the event they are lost, clerks and police will better be able to know who to look for.  Also very helpful is a current photo of the child.

If you loose a child while shopping, don’t panic.  Alert a clerk to help you look.  Some of the chain stores have policies to help find lost children, including making announcements, and watching exits.  And if you have very young children, consider not taking them shopping.  Young children will be more comfortable and your shopping will be more enjoyable if your children are at home with a competent sitter or adult.

To learn more, grab your copy of “The Naked Truth About Personal Protection” at

Don’t Let a Thief Go “Dashing Through The Snow” With Your Gifts and Presents

By Sgt. Mark Buschena

The day after Thanksgiving traditionally is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and kicks off the start of the official Christmas Shopping Season. Here are some tips for a safer and more enjoyable shopping experience.

When shopping this year, take only enough cash to pay for your purchases.  Better than cash are checks and credit cards, in case they are lost or stolen.

PURSES – Stores will be crowded this time of year.  That means opportunities for thieves.  Pay attention to where your purse is at all times.  Don’t set it down to look at something.  It might not be there when you turn back to it.  Be especially careful of your purse in restrooms and fitting rooms. 

Why not consider a fanny pack instead of a purse?  Only wear it with the pack in front, like a belly pack.  They are much safer and more convenient than a purse, and it will allow you to have both hands free to check out those bargains.

CHILDREN – If you have to take small children shopping with you, remind them of a few safety tips before you leave home.  Tell them that if you get separated, to stay in whatever store you are in.  Tell them not to leave the store or the mall, and especially don’t go out in to the parking lot to wait for you.  They are too vulnerable out there to cold and traffic.  Make a plan that if you get separated, you’ll meet at a certain place.  Make it something simple, like by the ice-cream counter – they should be able to remember that!

PACKAGES – Be careful where you set your packages down when shopping.  When you get an armload of packages, take them out to your car.  Even though you may be in a rush, lock them securely in the trunk, not in the front or back seat.  They’re too easily ripped off there.  Or take them home, and come back for another load. Don’t give a thief the opportunity to go “dashing through the snow” with your gifts.

TRAFFIC – Streets will be jammed with drivers hustling around for those great buys.  Remember that streets get icy this time of year, and stopping distances increase.  Allow yourself a little extra time to get where ever you’re going, and slow down. Also remember, that the mall lots will be busy with drivers racing to get that parking spot.  Keep an eye out for the other guy.  That parking spot isn’t worth wrecking your car over.  Happy Holidays!

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