With the summer vacations in full swing, we thought it helpful to once again provide you with a checklist of safety tips.
Not only do law enforcement agencies report that violent crime rates are highest in July and August, these days there are even more reasons to be cautious as a result of online social media behavior. Home invasions increase during the summer months due to lighter security such as, open windows and homes left unoccupied during vacations. So how do you protect yourself, your belongings and your office during this time of the year?
Well first of all, don’t get all paranoid on us, we already have a government that does that for us.
Being aware of your immediate environment and being cautious with dispensing personal information is essential for a healthy safety attitude. Couple this attitude with a selection of protective habits and you are more than half way there.
Staying safe is mostly an attitude and behavior that tells a potential perpetrator that you are a hard and difficult target. 99 out of a 100, you will be left alone.
So Be Aware and remember the basics for home, office and car:
• Lock your doors and windows. Don’t forget to keep the door from your garage to your home locked, especially if you keep your garage door open.
• Keep your car locked at all times and don’t forget to close your sunroof!
• Put things away in your car. Don’t leave anything of value in sight of for that matter in the car (purse, wallet, laptop, camera, iPod, GPS, passports etc.).
• Park in a well lit area. Even if you arrive during daylight, it might be dark when you leave.
• Keep your car serviced and always have at ample fuel.
• Prepare your roadside emergency kit and keep it handy in your car.
And when going on Vacation, make sure to prepare and secure your home by considering the following actions.
• Install motion sensor lights around the outside of your home.
• Put indoor lights on timers so they come on at different times, making it appear is if someone is home.
• Have a trusted neighbor or friend collect your mail and newspapers.
• Pay someone to cut your lawn and pick-up any litter or trash. There are Concierge Service that do this kind of work for a small fee.
• Engage the garage door lock before you leave (use the lock on the wall box or on the main device\overhead).
• Lock up or shred papers with any sensitive information before you leave, including bank statements, credit reports, receipts, credit card statements and tax returns.
• Be sure your trusted neighbors know you are away so they can keep an eye on your home.
• Make copies of passport, credit/debit cards and other pertinent information you may need if you would loose the originals on vacation.
Also when going on vacation you need to give special attention to your information sharing behavior.
For example, take particular care with the information you share across social networks. This applies also to applications used to plan journeys or to locate people geographically through GPS devices, as this information could easily be exploited to aid housebreaking.
Facebook apps such as Doorpl or Trip Advisor (which show messages describing where you are or where and when you are planning to go); the Twitter geolocation utility (displaying where tweets have been sent from), or services for locating mobile devices through GPS (now widely employed by iPhone or Android users), are just a few examples.
If you take your computer on vacation with you:
• Before you do anything else, back up all your information onto a safe external hard drive which you should put safely away. You never know what might happen (accidents, theft of your PC/laptop, etc.).
• Make sure that you have reliable, up-to-date protection and all necessary security patches are installed.
• To mitigate the consequences of anyone stealing your computer, encrypt the information on your hard disk, even though this may seem a tiresome or complex task. This prevents anyone accessing your data without the right password.
• Clean out temporary files, logs, cookies and any password reminders or auto-complete features you use with your browser. This prevents anyone using your computer, without your permission, from automatically accessing your webmail, social networks, bank account or favorite online stores.
• Don’t connect to unprotected WiFi networks, as you could be hooking up to a network set up by hackers to steal any information that you share across the Internet. Even if you have to pay for it, it is always better to use secure, trusted networks. A quick side note here. A couple of days ago we were in a corporate office in historic Fernandina discussing some strategies and while we opened our laptops and hooked into the office WIFI, our Macs immediately got access to every computer in the office. This is a company who actually has an IT person employed!!
• Take care with email. Phishing attacks and spam are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
If you use a computer other than your own (think again!):
• Better still… Don’t, because you never know what could be installed on this computer. Using PCs in cyber-cafes, for example, or systems in hotels or airports to access your bank account, etc. could have serious consequences if a Trojan has been installed.
• If you really have no choice and you have to enter websites requiring your personal credentials, make sure you change these immediately afterwards to minimize the risk.
• Avoid making any transactions or purchases online from another computer than your own. Any information you enter in another computer could well be recovered later by another user.
• Don’t accept any of the prompts to save personal data offered by many browsers.
• If you download anything onto the local computer, remember to delete it before closing, to ensure this information is not available to other users.
• When you have finished, delete all temporary files, the browser history, cookies, log files and any other information that may have been saved on the computer.
And always, on social networks or similar:
• Never use applications for planning journeys offered by social networks, to ensure that you can’t be located. Don’t accept the geolocation function in Twitter, and don’t use this technology on your cell phone.
• Don’t proactively share your holiday plans in chatrooms, IRCs, communities, etc.
• If you do spend time in chatrooms while on holiday, don’t reveal any personal or confidential details to anyone you don’t know.
• Share these recommendations with your children, who are often more naïve and more open to sharing information across the Internet.
• If you observe any suspicious behavior on social networks (strangers with too much of an interest in your holiday destination, dates, etc.) contact the police. Prevention is better than cure.
• And last but obviously not least: ALWAYS LOG OUT. You’d be amazed how many people don’t.
Staying Safe While Away
• Never show large amounts of cash or traveler’s checks. If you must carry it, keep it hidden.
• Use the hotel safe. There is no need to carry more cash, traveler’s checks or jewelry than needed. If it will fit, you can also secure your laptop inside the safe.
• Be aware of pick pocketing. It does still happen! Be sure you secure your wallet and purse at all times.
• Hold onto all your receipts. get a special envelop to go with you. Match them with your credit card and bank statements when you get home and watch for any charges or withdrawals you did not make.
And when visiting Social Events don’t let your guard down, whether it is in your home town or vacation spot. Go with someone if you can.
The old saying “there’s safety in numbers” is still mostly true. Take a buddy! Also don’t wear flashy jewelry or clothing that is too revealing, especially to outdoor events. Park where you can not get blocked in or have to walk through unprotected dark areas. Always park your car at night in the direction you are going to leave in.
And finally… trust your instincts. If a situation doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If that walk through the parking lot is giving you a shiver down your spine, turn around and go back inside the restaurant or hotel lobby. No matter how busy you are, you are never too busy to be safe!
You may even want to consider a “Concealed Weapons” permit class. The Second Amendment Gun Range in Yulee has several free ones scheduled with the Fernandina Beach Police Department giving the class.