Sheriff Tim Cameron and the men and women of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office would like to wish everyone a safe and happy 2014 Holiday Season. Here are just a few tips to prevent theft while you shop for that perfect gift!

  • Be smart about parking. Always lock your vehicle and ensure all windows are closed. Avoid driving at night, but when necessary, park in well-lit areas away from dumpsters or larger vehicles that can serve as hiding places for thieves or carjackers. Never hide a second set of keys in a vehicle, and never leave a vehicle running or unattended.
  • Keep purchases out of sight. Hide purchases and store bags by keeping them in a trunk, or bring blankets and garbage bags to camouflage your gifts. Change parking locations each time you store purchases in your vehicle in case thieves are watching. Try making expensive purchases last giving thieves less opportunity to steal.
  • Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag and gifts, especially outside the store. Locate your keys before arriving at your vehicle, and never put bags down or on top of a vehicle to open a door. Do not make more purchases than you are able to carry.
  • Only use ATMs in well-lit locations. Only use an ATM if necessary, and only withdraw the amount of cash needed. When possible, carry cash in your front pocket instead of your wallet or purse. Protect your PIN number at ATMs and registers by shielding the keypad from bystanders. Using a drive-up ATM is generally safest, but always remember to check your surroundings. 
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Con artists may try various ways to distract your attention with the intention of stealing your money or belongings. Be wary of anyone approaching you needing “quick cash” or offering you a large check for a smaller amount of cash. You’ll likely end up holding a bad check.
  • Shop with a friend or relative, but leave children with a sitter. Criminals are more likely to target someone shopping alone than those with one or more people accompanying them. Children should be left with a sitter, though, as they could actually hinder your safety efforts by diverting your attention.
  • Only make secure online transactions. When shopping online, check for a “secure” icon in the address bar when you begin the checkout process. The URL should begin with the letters “https”. Always begin an online shopping session by typing the address of the official website in the address bar instead of clicking on a link from another website or email. This will help avoid “phishing” sites and emails which often look like official sites but are used to steal your financial information.
  • Ensure packages are delivered to a person. When having items shipped, choose a location where someone will be present in lieu of allowing packages to be left unattended. Most delivery companies will also offer the option of picking up the package at their facility.
  • Save all receipts. If something is stolen, a receipt is often the easiest way to begin tracking the stolen item because it includes the time of checkout as well as pertinent information about the purchase. When making purchases online, save all correspondence and order confirmations.