SecurAlert Holiday Safety - December 2013

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SecurAmerica has added a special cyber security supplement which offers some great tips on avoiding getting scammed over the internet as cyber shopping continues to grow. Online shopping will account for nearly 13.5 percent of the total retail shopping sales this holiday season, up from 12.3 percent last year.

Please feel free to send this to your colleagues, friends and elves to help keep them safe during this special holiday season.

Regards,

Chris Carney
ccarney@securamericallc.com

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SecurAlert Holiday Safety - December 2013

  1. 1. This month’s SecurAlert provides a wide range of safety and security tips aimed at making this special holiday season for our SecurAlert readers even more special. Please feel free to send this to your relatives, neighbors and friends to help keep them safe during this special holiday season. According to the US Fire Administration, the holidays have more than double the number of home cooking fires that occur in an average day. Fire Safety Most of holiday fires are related to fireplaces, space heaters, holiday decorations, candles and cooking. To help prevent home fires this holiday season, here are some tips that you can consider: n Install a smoke detector in your kitchen (and for that matter every level of your home) that senses both the visible (photoelectric) AND invisible (ionization) signs of combustion. This will ensure a smoky fire and one that has primarily flame or is just beginning is detected and an alarm sounded! n NEVER leave the kitchen while omething is boiling, s frying or grilling. n n n Use a timer and conduct kitchen checks when simmering, baking, broiling and roasting. Keep potholders and food wrappers at least three feet away from heat sources while cooking. Wear tighter fitting clothing with shorter sleeves when cooking.
  2. 2. Candle Safety n Make sure they are placed in sturdy holders. Make sure they don’t drip hot wax or are near trees or any combustible item. Never place candles on a Christmas tree. Keep small children away from them and matches and lighters. Never leave candles burning at night or when you leave your home. n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n Make sure all stoves, ovens, and ranges have been turned off when you leave the kitchen. Turn handles of pots and pans on the stove inward to avoid accidents. Have a “kid-free zone” of at least three-feet around the stove and areas where hot foods or drinks are prepared or carried. Keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cool. Follow all manufacturer guidelines regarding the appropriate use of appliances. After guests leave, designate a responsible adult to walk around the home making sure that all candles and smoking materials are extinguished. Buy only “UL-APPROVED” lighting; use outdoor lighting and decorations that are specifically manufactured for outdoor use. NEVER use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can be charged with electricity from faulty lights that can electrocute persons and pets! Never overload electrical outlets. Never burn holiday wrappings in your fireplace. If you purchase an artificial tree, make sure it is “Fire Resistant”. Shut off lights on a fresh tree if you are away from your house; these can grow hot and cause a tree branch to ignite, particularly if it is dry.
  3. 3. Space Heaters The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, causing more than 300 deaths. An estimated 6,000 persons each year receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries caused by space heaters. Many victims are elderly and live alone so make sure you share this important information with your senior citizen friends and family. Room gas heaters, portable kerosene heaters (illegal in many states) and portable electric heaters have the highest risk of death and injuries so try to avoid these if at all possible. But, if you decide to use one or you have a loved one who will not give up “their” space heater, follow these tips throughout the winter season: Make sure the space heater selected has been tested by an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL). The preferred style of space heaters should be a fully enclosed by design and have no external surfaces that reach temperatures capable of igniting, such as an oil filled radiant heater. Do not storage anything within three feet of the unit. The leading cause of space heater fires is combustibles too close to the heater. Keep kids and pets away form them! Heaters should be placed on a flat, level surface. Do not place heaters on furniture since they may fall and become damaged or break parts in the heater. Unless the heater is designed for use outdoors or in bathrooms, do not use in damp, wet areas. Make sure the heater has thermostatic controls and automatic shutoff features. The space heater must be plugged directly into an outlet. Do not use a light-duty extension cord or a multi outlet strip/surge protector; it can start a fire with a high-wattage appliance. The unit must be grounded with a three-pronged plug. Many office workers use space heaters and plug these into cubicle outlets – this is a serious fire hazard and one of the leading causes of office fires during the winter months. Run the power cord so that no one steps on or trips over it. Never leave a space heater running when the room it is heating is unattended; turn it off when you leave and NEVER leave it running at night.
  4. 4. Shopping Safety There is no total way of preventing crime, but here are some proven tips that we have shared with our readers over the years: n Minimize after-dark shopping. n Wait for a close space. n Shop with friends. n Carry a minimal wallet (license, one credit card, cash – n n n Criminal activity peaks around the holiday season. Criminals, both professional and amateur, use this time to pray on unsuspecting and distracted shoppers, travelers and home owners. Typical crimes around the holidays include shoplifting, pick-pocketing, identity theft (primarily on-line credit card fraud), vehicle break-in/thefts, purse snatching and home burglary. n n n n n n n n n n never place your Social Security card in your wallet). Put valuable items, including portable navigation systems and other electronics in your trunk BEFORE you park your car; never leave anything inside the interior portion of your vehicle including gym bags, backpacks, etc. Secure your vehicle once you park it; many vehicles are actually unlocked during the holidays, which creates a huge opportunity for a criminal to strike. Avoid large amounts of cash. Grip bags close to your body. Keep credit cards and cash in your front pocket. Wear comfortable, non-designer clothing and keep the jew- elry at home – criminals target shoppers who look like they have money or are wearing jewelry that can easily be taken. Never leave your shopping bags unattended. Ask for an escort if your vehicle is parked in a dark or remote area. Before you enter your vehicle look in the inside to make sure no one is in it; once inside IMMEDIATELY lock the doors. Know the location of mall security and report any person or activity that is suspicious. Be aware of your surroundings; don’t be distracted with shopping bags and other items. Don’t give money to pan handlers; this can be a ruse to get you distracted and open your wallet or purse for another criminal to grab it. Teach your kids to stay with you; never allow them to wander.
  5. 5. Home Party Safety No one really thinks that home parties could be an opportunity for a dishonest partier to strike but every year, the unthinkable happens…so help minimize the chance of a theft or other event at your home by considering the following: Know your invitees; don’t assume you or someone else knows a stranger. Keep your wallet or purse secured and out of site. Secure very expensive jewelry or keep it out of site. Periodically check upstairs and all rooms. Designate a first floor coat room to avoid guests walking through your home. Assign an end time. Consider beer and wine only; have plenty of food and non- alcoholic beverages. Mop up spills quickly to avoid a fall hazard. When the party is over, check all rooms in your house to make sure everyone has left and secure all doors while you are cleaning up. Home Security Homes are also vulnerable around the holidays as criminals prey on homes that are unoccupied due to holiday travel or serve as attractive targets due to the amount of gifts that many homes have stored in them. So, here are some very basic steps you can take to help you avoid becoming a victim: n Put inside lights on timers; have these on different times so the same ones turn on and off at the n n n n n n same time – this is a tell tale sign that no one is home. Cancel mail and newspaper deliveries if travelling or have a neighbor pick these up for you. Keep gifts out of site. Cover empty trash boxes that advertise expensive gifts and electronics – thieves will know what’s in your house. Buy only fresh trees; keep them watered; place them in sturdy stands. Never place a tree in the way of your path to exit your home. Confine charitable giving to reputable, established organizations – holidays bring scam artists.
  6. 6. , For our 2013 Holiday Edition of SecurAlert, we thought we would end on providing some great tips from the US government that can help you protect yourself and your finances as you hunt for that perfect gift: Internet Shopping The internet makes holiday shopping so easy—no fighting for parking spaces at jam-packed malls, no waiting in endless lines to get to the register. But even if you consider yourself a pro, shopping online isn’t without risks, use these tips to protect yourself: n Use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit card payments can be withheld if there’s a dispute with a store, and if the card is stolen, you won’t have to pay more than $50 of fraudulent charges. But with a debit card, you can’t withhold payments—the store is paid directly from your bank account. And if your card is stolen, you could be liable for up to $500, depending on when you report it. n Make sure the sites on which you shop and provide credit card information are safe. If you are enter- your financial information on a webpage, make sure the URL begins with “https” as opposed to ing “http” or has a lock in your browser’s search bar. n Find out if the public WiFi hotspot you’re using at a coffee shop or bookstore is secure. If it’s not, your payment information could be compromised over the network. n Enable “Timeouts” on your mobile device. Why? More and more consumers are doing the bulk of their holiday shopping on mobile phones. If you’re one of those consumers, make sure to enable a lock screen password, in case your device is lost or stolen. If your phone isn’t timed out, you’re leaving the keys to your kingdom to whoever picks it up. n Don’t’ click on “Pop-up Ads.” Though it may seem obvious, malicious pop-up ads still pose one of largest threats to web shoppers. Studies have shown that a large amount of consumers will click the the account regardless of its message. Be mindful of what pop-ups say, it could be evidence of a on security threat.
  7. 7. n It’s risky not to read the terms of service agreement before you buy online. You could inadvertently sign up for subscriptions or get hit with additional fees or restrictions. Terms of service are often in small print or presented right when you are anxious to purchase. n Be careful if you’re buying event tickets online as gifts. Some venues may practice restricted ticketing, requiring the same credit card used in the online purchase to be shown to get into the event. n Use caution buying digital assets like books and music—they can’t be given away as gifts if they’ve been downloaded to your account. You should either purchase a gift card for the book or music site, check with the company. Some services have ways to “gift an item” but it varies depending on the or provider. For more information visit the following websites: www.be.safe.org www.safetyathome.com www.cdc.gov/family/holiday www.nfpa.com www.aspca.org

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