NORTH FULTON, Ga. — The holidays are fast approaching, but it’s no reason for people to let their guard down. Some crimes become more common while people enjoy their time off.

Phone scams are one example.

“Scams are very prevalent at any time of the year, but during the holidays, we need to be on an even higher alert,” said Roswell Police Public Information Officer Sean Thompson. “Most people are in a ‘giving’ mood, therefore, scammers will likely play to that.”

Thompson suggests vetting charities before donating. One sign of a legitimate charity, Thompson said, is a secure website with an “https://” in the address and a padlock symbol.

People should also avoid providing Social Security numbers or bank account information over the phone.

“Remember, no one, not even ‘law enforcement’ or the ‘Social Security Administration’ will ask you of this information,” Thompson said. “We have had a bunch of reports in Roswell where someone is calling claiming to be from the Social Security Administration.”

Shopping and traveling are two other areas where certain crimes may increase around the holidays.

Alpharetta Department of Public Safety Public Affairs Officer Sgt. Howard Miller said that as a general rule, to be aware of your surroundings and keep track of credit card notices. 

“Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason,” Miller said. “This time of year, criminals will try various methods to distract you with the intention of stealing purses and other belongings… Shop during daylight hours, if possible. If you must shop at night, do so with a friend or family member.” 

As people migrate online for holiday gift shopping, package thefts from cars and porches tend to increase this time of year as well, he said.

Some ways to minimize the risks, Thompson said, is to avoid placing empty packaging or boxes by the curb, because it can signal what you have to a potential thief. Instead, people can break down the packaging or use a recycling facility. 

And residents should ensure mail and packages don’t pile up while they are away for the holidays, Thompson said. 

“Traveling equals time away from our homes,” Thompson said. “If available, have someone check your home daily for mail and packages. If no one is available, leave some sort of lights on and contact the USPS to hold mail. If you’re expecting any packages, change the delivery to an office pick up.”

Other tips include securing homes and cars before leaving.

“Holidays are extremely busy, and our minds can be in a million different places,” Thompson said. “But taking simple steps can prevent us from becoming victims.” 

For those traveling over the holidays, local law enforcement agencies provide some security and peace of mind with a vacation watch.

The Roswell Police Department requires residents to fill out an online form at roswellgov.com. The department also puts up alerts about scams or crime sprees in the city on its social media pages.

The Alpharetta Department of Public Safety offers similar services for residents at p2c.alpharetta.ga.us/p2c and on its social media pages. 

The Johns Creek Police Department likewise offers vacation patrols, which citizens can request through the police to citizen portal at p2c.johnscreekga.gov.

Milton residents can sign up for a vacation watch online at cityofmiltonga.us.

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