Thwarting thieves

Steps to take before hitting the road

By Amy Higgins

Thwarting thieves
Do not leave expensive items in your car in plain view.

Vacations are a time to relax and have fun, but becoming a victim of theft can spoil those plans. Don’t be an easy mark: safeguard your vehicle, identity and home while traveling.

Auto theft

Did you know auto theft peaks in the summer months? According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), most vehicle thefts occur in July and August. Your vehicle is usually close by when you’re on a road trip, but think of how often your vehicle is unattended: stops at rest areas, convenience stores, historical sites or amusement parks.

And often your car is full of luggage and other personal belongings that can lure thieves. Troy Sandberg, owner of Signal 88 Security in Denver, Colo., has these tips to avoid vehicle theft:

  • Park in well-lit areas and keep your windows rolled up and doors locked at all times when unattended. If you have an alarm system, use it.
  • If you leave town without your vehicle, inform trusted neighbors or property management and ask them to report suspicious activity around your home and vehicle. 
  • Never leave your keys in your vehicle.

Home theft

Every 10 seconds an American home is burglarized, according to Farmers Insurance. And you don’t need to be wealthy to tempt thieves. Sure, homes with high-tech electronics and jewelry are targets, but common conveniences such as TVs, computers and cameras can lure in robbers.

Don’t alert potential thieves of your absence. Farmers Insurance suggests these precautions: 

  • Make sure mail and newspapers are either picked up or suspend their delivery.
  • Arrange to have your lawn mowed or snow shoveled. 
  • Ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway.
  • Put lights, TV and stereo on timers that turn on and off randomly.
  • Don’t advertise your absence with announcements on your voicemail, email, Facebook page or Twitter account. 
  • Turn your telephone ringer down or off. 
  • Install a motion detector on outside lights.

Identity theft

More than ever, identity theft is a great concern. According to the Javelin Strategy & Research 2013 Identity Fraud Report, identity fraud affected 12.6 million consumers in 2012.

Becoming a victim of identity theft while on vacation, especially far from home, can be traumatic. Kiplinger has these suggestions to safeguard your identity:

  • Inform your credit card company of your travels, especially if you’ll be out of the country. Financial institutions are cracking down on unusual spending behaviors, and your account could be frozen if they identify spending activity outside your normal region.
  • If you receive an alert about suspicious activity on your cell phone, don’t call the number provided or reply by text. This has become a common practice for thieves. Instead, call the number on the back of your credit card.
  • Rid your wallet of unneeded credit cards or other personal information, such as your Social Security card, and store them in a secure location. Only keep items you will need on vacation in your wallet and make copies of those items in the event your wallet is stolen.
  • Keep your hotel room clear of personal information when not there. It can get stolen while you’re away from your room.
  • Check your bank accounts and credit card activity regularly.

About the Author

Amy Higgins writes for Colorado Country Life magazine and lives in Centennial, Colo.
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