Source: Sherman Publications

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Call for caution this Christmas

by Phil Custodio

December 07, 2011

It's the season of giving, but for criminals, it's also time to steal.

"Be vigilant for yourself," said Det. William Baldwin, Independence Township substation. "Take precautions. If something sounds too good to be true, it's probably too good to be true."

When shopping online, make sure the website/online retailer you are purchasing from is reputable.

Fake websites are prevalent, so do some research before making a purchase if you are unfamiliar with a particular site or retailer. Enter the name of the website address or business into a search engine, along with the word "scam" or "fraud" and see what comes up.

"Or call them to see if the deal is right, see if it's true," Baldwin said. "What harm would it do?"

Some comparison shopping sites like,, or have reviews and ratings for certain retailers.

Fake sellers might also send you emails or place online ads, so be cautious before making a purchase. Even if it looks legitimate, it may not be. Make sure if you are ordering online that you are doing so on a secure server. Secure servers web addresses begin with "https" rather than "http".

"I'd probably go with eBay using Pay Pal," Baldwin said.

When shopping locally, make sure you park in an area that is well lit if you plan on being there in the evening hours. Don't leave any packages in plain view in your vehicle and create a temptation for criminals wishing to steal your holiday packages. Lock them in your trunk where no one will be able to see them. Don't overload yourself by carrying too many packages, preventing you from having your car keys handy.

While shopping, be careful in crowds, as simple pickpocketing or purse-snatching is still a common practice. Keep your distance from others, and be careful of people who may try to bump into or jostle you in an attempt to lift your wallet or snatch your purse.

If you put your purse in a shopping cart, never leave it unattended, even for a moment. When paying at the cash register, check your receipts and your change to make sure you aren't short-changed or overcharged, either intentionally or by accident.

"If someone offers to help with bags, unless you know the person, I'd pass on it," Baldwin said.