🎁⚠️Last-Minute Holiday Shopping?⚠️🎁 Safety Tips to Escape the Cons, the Frauds, and the Headaches…

The last-minute holiday shopping season is upon us…

…and while the Holiday Season is a very special time of year, it is also a time when people are stressed, rushed and as a result become careless and vulnerable to holiday crimes.

 

Here are some useful tips to make your Holiday Season safer while shopping or doing your day to day activities that become a bit more stressful in this busy time.

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  • Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member
  • Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device.
  • Park in a well-lighted area, avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells, or cars with tinted windows and park as close as you can to your destination.
  • Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight.
  • Be sure to locate your keys prior to going to your car.
  • Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag and parcels. Do not put them down or on top of the car in order to open the door.
  • When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area. Ask mall or store security for an escort before leaving your shopping location.
  • Dress casual and comfortable and avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • If possible, carry your cash and credit cards on your person instead of carrying a purse or wallet. Be sure to carry your ID as well and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Purses and Wallets are prime targets for thieves in crowded situations.
  • Keep a record of all your credit card numbers (recommended: photograph the front and back of each) and notify your credit card issuer immediately if your card is lost, stolen or misused.
  • Avoid carrying more packages than you can easily handle to your car when leaving your shopping trip. If you have to make multiple trips to your vehicle to carefully store these packages in your trunk that is better than the distraction of handling multiple packages alone when unlocking your vehicle.
  • Beware of any strangers approaching you. Con-artists thrive during the holiday season working together with methods of distracting you while taking your money or belongings.
  • If you must use an ATM machine choose one indoors and preferably with a security guard nearby. If there is a line of people waiting to use the machine, offer them the opportunity to go before you so that no one is able to look over your shoulder while entering your personal information and if someone approaches be sure to shield your PIN number when entering it. Also, keep your ATM receipt on your person instead of disposing of it publicly.

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Shopping with your children is an additional challenge and we recommend you leave small children at home with a loved one or trusted sitter. Here are some important tips for parents that are useful throughout the year but especially at this busy time:

  • Teach children their full name, address and telephone number to give to police officers or mall security.
  • Teach children to immediately inform you if a stranger is bothering them.
  • Teach your child to stay close to you at all times while shopping and to go to a store clerk and ask for help if separated from you.
  • Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom, food court, or to the car.

We wish you a safe and blessed Holiday Season filled with amazing memories and experiences to last a lifetime!

Give the Gift of Safety! Smart & Secure Stocking Stuffers That Show You Care

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Here’s our list of the top 10 gift ideas to
keep your loved ones prepared for emergency situations:

  1. First Aid Kit — It’s always smart to keep a First Aid Kit in your vehicle as well as your home. You can build the kit yourself and put it in a decorative, personalized container as a gift or you can buy a First Aid Kit. Be sure the kit contains the following important items:
    An assortment of band-aids, a compress, adhesive cloth tape, gause, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone ointment, Asprin, Ibuprophen, Scissors, splint, Ace bandage Wrap, Antiseptic wipes, Thermometer, Flashlight, and a first aid manual.
  2. Vehicle Emergency Kit – Like the first aid kit, you can build one yourself as a gift or purchase a pre-made kit. Many pre-made kits include a first aid kit already! Be sure your vehicle safety kit has:
    a jump starter, a portable air compressor to air tires, a car escape tool set, a lantern, reflective road flags or triangles
    and a fire extinguisher.
  3. Fire Extinguisher – Every home and car should have a small Fire Extinguisher in case of emergency. Kitchen fires are more common than we realize and most insurance companies will discount home insurance policies for homeowners equipped with protection and prevention items such as extinguishers and smoke detectors. The National Fire Protection Agency reported an average of 31 vehicle fires on the road per hour and an average of one death per day and 12 severe injuries as a result.
  4. Computer Protection Programs — Antivirus or anti-virus software (often abbreviated as AV), sometimes known as anti-malware software, is computer software used to prevent, detect and remove malicious software. Learn what the best programs available are here!
  5. Identity Theft Protection Services — Identity theft occurs when someone uses one’s personal identifying information, without authorization, in order to perpetrate fraud or other offenses, such as obtaining loans, services or credit. To reduce that risk Identity Theft Protection Services are available.  Learn what the best services available are here!
  6. Security Camera – Depending on your loved one’s need, a security camera is a great way to add a watchful eye to their home. Security cameras often deter crime when spotted by criminals.  Choosing the right camera and system relies on several factors so we suggest you read this article before purchasing.
  7. Medical Alert System – This is really a necessity for anyone you love who lives alone but especially for an elderly or ill loved one who lives alone. Once again, depending on your loved one’s needs or capabilities, you will need to choose the best system suited for him or her.  Here is a comprehensive guide of what to look for when shopping Medical Alert Systems.
  8. Multi-Purpose Flashlight – A flashlight is always handy, but one with additional options is even better. Today you can get rechargeable, bright flashlights with other useful tools included such as USB ports, a compass, a knife, a emergency signal and more.
  9. Weather and Hazard Alert Radio — These hazard specific radios work only with a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. NWR (Working with the Federal Communication Commission’s Emergency Alert System) broadcasts official Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week making it your single source for comprehensive weather and emergency information. In conjunction with Federal, State, and Local Emergency Managers and other public officials, NWR also broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards – including natural (such as earthquakes or avalanches), environmental (such as chemical releases or oil spills), and public safety (such as AMBER alerts or 911 Telephone outages).
  10. Safety Training Classes — You can buy your loved ones gift certificates for important classes to train in CPR, Gun Safety and more! Visit our website to learn what classes we have available to equip our students with important knowledge on how to stay safe and prepared to handle dangerous situations.

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We wish you and your loved ones a Safe and Happy Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year!

💻 📬 📦 Online Shopping – Stay Safe & Keep It Simple 💻 📬 📦

 

Now that we are in the midst of the Holiday Shopping Season, we are trying to find ways to complete our gift lists while avoiding the hassle of crowded shopping centers, parking lots and all of the other external stressors that subtract from the joys of gift giving. Many people have chosen to bypass these hassles all together by doing all of their shopping online.

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While shopping online is convenient in so many ways, it also has it’s own set of precautions that we need to consider. Anything device connected to the Internet, including smartphones and tablets need to be protected – especially during heavy use periods, like the holidays. Scammers and cyber criminals can easily target shoppers.

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Being a safe and secure shopper starts with careful safeguards. Think about the consequences of your actions online before you act and enjoy the conveniences of technology with peace of mind while you shop online. 

Here are some great tips to help you find the ease of internet shopping to be a safe experience as well:

  • Use Familiar Websites rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. We all know Amazon.com and that it carries everything under the sun; likewise, just about every major retail outlet has an online store, from Target to Best Buy.
  • Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info!
  • Look for the Lock and NEVER buy anything that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. It depends on your browser.
  • Conduct research when using a new website for purchases, read reviews and see if other consumers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
  • Personal information is like money so value it and protect it! When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember, you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
  • Be on alert for emails that might get us to act quickly and click through links and open attachments. Be wary of emails about problems with your credit cards or an account or the status of online order. Criminals know we are price sensitive when shopping online. Exercise caution when seeing and ad offer where the discount is way below normal.
  • Don’t Tell All! No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.
  • Use safe payment options! Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. 
  • Read return and other polices so you know what to expect if the purchase doesn’t go as planned.
  • Limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging on to key accounts, such as email and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
  • Keep a clean machine by keeping all web-connected devices ‒ including PCs, smartphones and tablets ‒ free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
  • Reinforce your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
  • Make your password tough! A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “ILove2MyNewCar!”)
  • Having separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cyber-criminals. At a minimum, separate your work and personal accounts and make sure that your critical accounts have the strongest passwords. 
  • Check your statements regularly and don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online frequently during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. (After all, there’s more than one way to get to your money.) If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.

packagesxmas.jpgNow that you know the safest ways to shop, you’re only concern should be what is the best gifts to give your friends and family! If your loved ones are as concerned about internet security as you are, we recommend an online security tool.

Click here to see the top 10 Antivirus Software Programs of 2016!

Click here to see the top Identity Theft Protection Services of 2016!

Have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season!

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❄😔Holiday Blues got You Down? Try These Prevention & Survival Tips for a Happier & Healthier Winter Season😔❄

Holiday blues are a pretty common problem despite the fact that as a society, we see the holidays as a joyous time,” says Rakesh Jain, MD, director of psychiatric drug research at the R/D Clinical Research Center in Lake Jackson, Texas. “Many people feel depressed, which can be due to the increased stress that comes with the need to shop and the decreased time to exercise which gets put on the back burner during the holidays.”

While people with clinical depression should seek professional help, those with a touch of the holiday blues can try these strategies recommended by experts to assure a merry holiday and a happy new year:

  • Avoid setting up unrealistic expectations for yourself such as taking on hosting responsibilities for events or trying to be the peace keeper in family conflicts.
  • Plan ahead by creating prevention routines for yourself and doing your best to follow your schedule. Set up a calendar of to do lists for positive actions for yourself.
  • Remember it’s ok to grieve. If you’ve suffered a loss and this season is a painful reminder of that, don’t be ashamed to grieve that loss. Feelings are a sign that you’re human and reflect where you are in your healing process.
  • Don’t rob yourself of proper rest! Sleep and rest are important to everyone. Studies have proven that sleep deprivation is directly connected to depression. Do not cut back on your sleep in order to get more done during this busy season. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it.
  • Avoid binging on food and alcohol. What feels good at the moment will have you facing regrets later on. Know your limits and stick to them at all times. In the moment binging may seem like a solution, but in actuality it creates more problems.

If your feelings of sadness during the holidays are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, do one of the following immediately: 1. Call 911  2. Go immediately to a hospital emergency room. 3. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).


Could I be Suffering from Depression?

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Here are some symptoms to help identify depression in yourself or in a loved one:

  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Struggling with concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Overwhelming and uncontrollable negative thoughts
  • Loss of appetite or significant increase in appetite
  • Escalating irritability, aggression, or anger
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
  • Developing an increase in alcohol consumption or reckless (acting out) behavior
  • Thoughts that your life is not worth living or thoughts of death or suicide
  • Fatigue, exhaustion, lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Pessimism, indifference
  • Unexplained aches and pains

If you are experiencing these symptoms you should seek professional help immediately. If you observe these symptoms in a loved one, gently encourage them to consider professional help.

For a listing of depression support groups, please visit the DBSA online


For Family and Friends

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Keep in mind that a mood disorder such as Depression is a physical, treatable illness that effects a person’s brain. It is a real illness, as real as diabetes or asthma. It is not a character flaw or personal weakness, and it is not caused by anything you or your loved one did.

A “tough love” approach is widely considered  unhelpful in terms of aiding someone with depression.


What to do in Crisis Situation

If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone.

In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK