'Tis the Season-stuff gets stolen, La-la-la-la-la, La-Lock Your Doors!

But seriously, there's no bigger bummer, save for a lump of coal in your stocking, than to have someone mess with you, your home or your stuff at Christmastime. And unfortunately, criminals don't take holidays or vacations--but they'll come take your stuff while your on one!

That's why it's important to remember some key pieces of advice during this season of Advent.

Full disclosure, I run a Neighborhood Watch in Bangor. My neighbors and I actually decided to start one up, several years ago, right around the Holiday season. We did so because so many of us had experiences involving packages being stolen from our own front steps, or vehicles being rifled through in our own driveways.

We would meet monthly with members of the Bangor Police Department, and learn tips to keep ourselves, our homes and our stuff safe. They're pretty common-sense things you can do, so let me share a few with you!

Your Home:

1.) To protect your home for the holidays, a good place to start is to light the place up! Not just with Christmas lights, but with flood lights. Using exterior lights, with timers or sensors could very well discourage would-be thieves from targeting your home.  Pair those lights with some security cameras, and you now have a way to help identify anyone who doesn't belong on your doorstep!

2.) The next step is the easiest, most obvious thing you can do to keep your home secure. It's so obvious, you would think I wouldn't even have to mention it, yet there are still people who DON'T do this, so I will mention it for their sake. Lock. Your. Doors.

Many people assume that just because we live in Maine, crime won't happen to us. Man, I wish that were true. But it's just not. So, use those locks. Better yet, if you can, get deadbolts to go with those locks!

3.) One of the best avenues of defense for your home is to get to know your neighbors. They can serve as your eyes and ears when you're not around. If you go out of town, have your neighbors look in on your place. It's also not a bad idea to let the cops know you won't be home for a while.

Make sure the mail gets collected and newspapers don't pile up.

And in the winter, have your driveway dealt with after a storm. If it looks like no one is around, someone you don't know might just come 'round and check!

And make sure you report any suspicious activity to the police. Always better to be safe than sorry.

Yourself:

1.) Being aware of your surroundings is something that can benefit you at any time, not just around the holidays. But when things get super busy or flashy or stressful, we can tend to forget or be distracted or be weighed down, which takes our attention away from what's going on around us. To know who and what is around you, and to trust your gut about those things, can help keep you safe.

When you park, try to park near a light, in a spot that's easy to see. If there's a big van parked next to you, or anyone or anything suspicious around your vehicle, that might be a red flag.

When walking out of places after dark, especially if you're carrying bags or boxes that might make mobility a challenge and visibility tricky, it's especially important to scan your surroundings.

2.) Try not to carry a ton of cash on you, and keep your wallet/bags/purses close to you at all times.

3.) If you have to shop in person, try to bring a friend or family member (I know, easier said than done these days!)

4.) And don't forget to lock the doors to your vehicle. (You might not want to count your change and balance your checkbook, in your, car until and unless you've made sure to lock those doors first!)

Your Stuff: 

1.) Track your packages. If you've placed an order online, and you know it's going to be delivered on a certain date, make sure you're either home or have a trusted neighbor or friend keep an eye out for it. Then get those packages inside! Packages left on doorsteps are easy targets for thieves to stroll by, grab and shove into a backpack or car.

Also, if you send a package to someone, give them a heads up as to when it should arrive, so they can do the same.

2.) Don't advertise the cool stuff you have! If your cool new extra huge and expensive TV comes in a giant box, don't stick that box curbside Christmas morning for every person passing in front of your house to see. Better to break that box down and drop it off to your local recycling spot.

3.) Also not a great idea to brag all over social media about what Santa brought you for the holidays. Sometimes criminals like to creep along online and on your pages to put together their stealing/shopping list. The less others know about your cool new stuff, the better chance you have at keeping it.

4.) Close your curtains at night. Seems like a silly and simple thing, but someone could come along and do some perusing while you're snoozing. Again, they can't plan to steal what they don't know you have. It's a lot easier for folks to see into your place and check out your stuff if your lights are on and your curtains are open. They get the benefit of lurking in the shadows while you and your new game system create a makeshift public access version of the Home Shopping Network for all the neighborhood to see.

5.) Last but not least, check your bank statements and credit statements daily, if possible. Some cyber crooks count on the fact that you're busy and likely not keeping track of every transaction in real time. They hope you won't notice that they've emptied your savings or checking account, till it's too late to do anything about it. If you make a habit of reconciling your books every day, or every other day, you'll be able to catch things that aren't correct, and start the process (and it is a process) of fixing what's been compromised before too much damage has been done and you lose all that hard-earned money!

Some common sense now can save you a ton of trouble in the long run. So stay safe out there, and enjoy the Holiday Season!

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