If you have a cellphone, carry or take it with you. Do not use it while driving; this is unlawful in some states.
Keep doors locked while driving. Maintain at least 1/2 tank of fuel and keep the vehicle in good repair.
The single most essential safety tip: Devote your full attention to driving. Shop with friends or relatives -- there is safety in numbers.
Remain alert in crowded places. Always supervise children, especially when going to the restroom.
Small children should know their first and last name so they can tell a person of authority if they become lost.
If a child becomes separated from you, have a predetermined plan where you will meet or what you will do (i.e., have them seek out a store clerk or a security guard). The child should never go outside to look for you or wait by the car.
If older children go to the mall (or other activities) without you, you should know where they are at all times. They should check in with you by phone frequently -- they should not go alone.
Using a debit or credit card is much safer than carrying a lot of cash. If possible, do not leave items (i.e., valuables) in plain view in your vehicle.
If you must leave items in your vehicle, place them out of sight before you arrive at your destination.
Lock the GPS, iPod, etc. in the glove compartment. Lock up the docking stations and the connector cables, too.
Some of the most commonly stolen items in vehicle burglaries include loose change, briefcases, backpacks, gym bags, lap-top computers, cellphones and day planners.
Park in well-lighted busy areas. Lock all doors every time you exit the vehicle. Set the alarm or the anti-theft device.
Keep your keys in your hand and remain alert to your surroundings -- criminals do not like eye contact. Check the trunk (to be sure it is locked), the back seat and under the vehicle before you get in it.
Do not clip or hang any identification tag to the rearview mirror -- these can be targeted items for identity theft. Do not hide your key on your vehicle while you are shopping -- take it with you.
Never leave your engine running for any reason while you are away from the vehicle.
Avoid placing your home address in your GPS in case it gets stolen -- this allows the suspect to go to your home while you are still shopping. If there is anyone suspicious at or near the ATM, select another ATM.
Use the "fisheye" mirror (if one is provided) to see what is going on behind you.
If followed, call 911.
Use the drive-up instead of going into the bank branch. Protect your PIN number -- do not carry it with you.
Photocopy the front/back of your credit and debit cards. Keep that information in a safe place. If they are lost or stolen, you will have easy access to the information.
Review bank and credit card statements promptly and report discrepancies. Keep the doors and windows locked at home. Set the alarm when not at home. Do not use voices and names of children on the answering machine -- this lets predators know that children live in your home.
If you are a female living alone, leave the generic outgoing message on the machine.
Watch for the mail. Thieves tend to look in mailboxes for checks and cash in Christmas cards.
Mail outgoing mail at the post office to avoid having it stolen -- never put outgoing mail in your mailbox overnight. Consider opening a post office box during the holiday season.
(c)2012 the Hernando Today (Brooksville, Fla.)
Visit the Hernando Today (Brooksville, Fla.) at www.HernandoToday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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