Holiday Safety for Home and Away

The old expression about not reinventing the wheel has a lot of validity, especially when it comes to some basic safety do's and don'ts. And even though you have probably heard these things many, many times, they are far too important not to repeat.snowglobe1.gif

Here are some great suggestions to assist in making your holidays as pleasant as possible. We hope that you will take a few minutes to read them. (At the end you will find instructions on how to arrange a vacation house watch.)


  • Always close the windows and lock your car, even if you are returning very shortly. This applies everywhere, including in front of your home.
  • Don't make your vehicle an attractive target. Hide small valuables in the glove box, console or under the seat. Make sure to lock larger items in the trunk or cover them up. Regardless of what may be in them, all shopping bags are a giveaway to a thief and even the smallest item is a temptation.
  • Try your best to park in well-lit areas (or areas that will be well lit when you return).

Shopping at Stores

  • If you carry a purse, keep it close to your body, preferably in front of you where you can see it, and cover the clasp or flap with your hand or forearm. Never carry open bags or purses without flaps or zippers (an easy mark for a pickpocket). Keep it with you and try not to set it down. If you are sitting in a restaurant or other public place, think before you hang your purse on the back of a chair or stool. Thieves sometimes work in pairs.  One will distract you while the other either grabs the wallet out of the purse or just takes the entire purse.
  • If carrying a wallet, try to carry it in an inside coat pocket or side pants pocket; not in the rear pants pocket.
  • Never overburden yourself with packages. Being loaded down may make it difficult for you to keep track of your purse or wallet or to respond to a situation.
  • Stay alert and be aware of what's going on around you. Always mind your surroundings.
  • Try to avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • When shopping with children, hold their hand as much as possible. Teach them that if they get separated from you in a shopping mall, they should go to a security guard or store clerk for assistance. Make sure they understand to never go into the parking lot to look for you or the car.

Shopping Online

  • Enter correct URLs. Hackers often buy misspelled domains to trick people into entering personal information.
  • Never email any financial information or your Social Security number.
  • Shop on secure sites. Look for websites that begin with  "https" and not just "http".
  • Never send payment information via regular email. It's not secure. Make sure all personal information transactions are done on a secure site.
  • Use credit cards, not debit cards. It makes it easier to dispute charges and usually limits liability.
  • Use different passwords for online retailers, personal email, and bank accounts. That way, if a hacker obtains one password, he won't have access to others.

For The Home

  • Take an extra minute to make certain that doors and windows are locked before going out. Don't forget about the overhead garage door. Do this even if you will be gone for only a short time.
  • Leave lights and/or a radio on so that it looks like someone is home. The installation of inexpensive timers can help with this.
  • Consider installing a home security system. An audible alarm upon a window breaking or door opening is an unwanted notification that a burglar does not want. Many times, a burglar will be deterred just because a home is alarmed. Cost, is of course, a concern, so determine exactly what would work best for you and then shop around.
  • Since it is the holidays, there are sure to be gifts. Just don't let them be visible to anyone peeking into windows. A Christmas tree by a window can be a sign to a burglar that gifts will be present, so be careful. And then after all the gifts are opened, don't leave the boxes out on the curb for trash pickup because that's another way to let burglars know what kinds of goodies they can find inside. Be sure to cut up the boxes and don't put your garbage cans out until just before pickup.

Going Out of Town?

If you are going out of town, there are several things you should do prior to leaving:

  • Contact your police department and request a vacation house watch. Vernon Hills residents, click here.
  • Remember, the goal is to make your home look "lived in".
  • Ask a friend or relative to watch your home and bring in the newspapers and mail (of course, having these deliveries stopped is good also).
  • Ask the friend watching the house to make the it look lived in by rearranging the curtains periodically and shoveling newly fallen snow (an obvious sign to a burglar).
  • Make sure to install at least one timer. (One on each floor is even better.)
  • Never advertise your travel plans to anyone other than those who need to know. Social media sites are a particular tip-off for would-be burglars.