Shopping Online? Here are a few "Cyber Monday" Tips...
- If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Research the seller or website you're buying from. Does the company have a brick and mortar store? If so, try calling during business hours.
- Do your homework. Educate yourself on the correct logo or spelling, packaging, hardware or stitching of whatever you are considering. It also helps to visit an actual store to examine the real deal up close. Take pictures and compare them to the seller's images.
- Don't ever buy an item that you learn about via bulk email ("spam"). Your chances of receiving the item at all are less than 50%.
- Don't conduct business with an anonymous seller. Get the person's real name, business name (if applicable), address, and phone number. Verify this information before buying. And don't send your payment to a post office box.
- Save copies of all of the emails and other documents involved in the transaction. Then, if you discover that an item is counterfeit, you have documentation to help you deal with the problem.
- Don't be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions.
- Look at the whole picture and review the facts. Misspellings on a website, no way to contact the seller other than email and product prices that are too good to be true could mean you are about to get scammed.
- Use a credit, not a debit card. Your liability for fraudulent charges is limited to $50 when using a credit card.
Top 10 Home Security Tips for the Holidays
PARTIES AND GRINCHES
The days are growing shorter, twilight creeping in a little earlier. The fun starts to move inside. Soon Thanksgiving will be upon us, and the holiday season will jump into full swing. We'll visit family, party with friends, fill the home with presents and bake delicious treats. It's a warm, cozy, social time of year.
It's also a hectic time. Travel, shopping, busy schedules. Homes are often unoccupied. Residential crime spikes, as burglars take advantage of the dark and of your holiday shopping. For some well-deserved peace of mind, make sure to secure your property while you're away - even if you're only at the mall.
Use this Top 10 holiday checklist for the best home security.
THINK LIKE A BURGLAR
Burglars can be sneaky, so Tip #1 is to think like burglars do. So now look around and evaluate other aspects of your home security. Are you providing an easy way in? Open vents or crawl spaces? Dog doors? Did you leave a ladder outside? Burglars could use it, or climb a nearby tree, to get in an upstairs window.
Of course the front or back door is the most common point of entry for a burglar. So Tip #2 is lock your doors and windows. Remember to use a deadbolt. Burglars also look for unlocked ground floor windows, especially in your side or backyard. Here's a link to our post on where intruders break in.
Tip #3 - Don't advertise that you're away. Burglars look for clues like uncollected newspapers and mail. Cancel deliveries or ask a friend to help your house looked lived-in. Even an unshoveled driveway says, "We're not here."
LET'S GET SOCIAL
Social Media is now part of our lives, and is especially fun around the holidays.
But Tip #4 is: be careful about what you post! If you blast your travel schedule across the internet, everyone - including crooks - will know you're not at home. Pass this tip onto your children.
Tip #5: Beware of identity theft. This is a favorite time of year for fake charities to gather your key financial info, like your SSN and credit card number, as well as your money.
Tip #6: Be Neighborly. Neighbors can do a great job of looking out for each other. Ask them to keep an eye on your home. Maybe they can even park a car in your driveway, or leave tire tracks after a fresh snowfall. Encourage neighbors to report suspicious behavior.
LIGHT IT UP
Darkness is a burglar's friend. So Tip #7 is light it up. Exterior lights (especially the motion-activated type) are a great deterrent. Put interior lights on a timer, so they'll come on in the evening if you're away. But close your curtains. No need to show off expensive presents under the tree. The same goes for the boxes the presents came in - fancy electronics boxes leave a tempting message for burglars.
Do you have an extra key outside? Chances are your hiding place is more obvious than you think. Tip #8: manage your keys and key chains. Get creative when you hide a key. Don't put your address on your key chain. If you lose that key chain, it's a personalized invitation to your home. Even the home address in your car's GPS could give you away, if stolen. Use a nearby address instead.
USE YOUR ALARM SYSTEMTip #9: Alarm systems today can do much more than just sound an alarm - some have integrated fire, smoke, carbon monoxide and flood monitoring. Call your alarm company to ensure you are taking advantage of all the features offered.
But here's Tip #10 - the most important tip of all: Arm your Alarm System. Even the best alarm system is no help unless you use it. When you leave, remember to arm the system in "Away" mode, to engage all your sensors.