JACKSONVILLE — Area authorities are urging shoppers to have a vigilant, safe and crime-free Christmas shopping season.
To do otherwise would be to invite all those grinches, thieves, robbers and other horrible holiday malcontents to descend on distracted shoppers and careless homeowners.
"They're stealing presents bought by someone else's hard-earned money," said Jacksonville Police Department Det. Javier Guerra. "It's very hard to catch them if no one sees and tells us anything we can act on."
It' s important to be secure at all times. But if shoppers must leave gifts in their vehicles, authorities ask they find a way to store those gifts certificates, computers, DVDs, cash, MP3 players and jewelry safely.
While in public, shoppers are advised to keep their eyes on their gifts and goods at all times.
"It's important to be more wary in general," Det. Guerra said.
The Better Business Bureau has a series of tips on how to store gifts in the car – again, if one must absolutely do so:
• Cover the shopping bags and lock the doors.
• Take special care to obscure valuable electronic devices such as cell phones.
• Close all car windows and roof windows and keep the car locked.
• Do not leave receipts in shopping bags or in vehicles. Carry them, secured, on your person.
• Also, check insurance policy and be aware of that the policy provides.
Det. Guerra said stealing Christmas presents from multiple unlocked vehicles or – even more audaciously – from active shoppers has become a regular yuletide hazard.
Authorities say it is easier to prevent gifts from being stolen than it is to recover them or replace them.
Consumers who drive to shopping malls in open pickup trucks are asked by authorities to not leave packages or boxes or anything in the unsecured backs of their vehicles.
But the dangers facing Christmas shoppers are not exclusively confined to the mall or the home. According to the BBB, there are many scam Christmas shopping sites online that claim to offer luxury goods or electronics at unbelievable prices.
"Every holiday season BBB hears from holiday shoppers who paid for what they believed was a great deal online, but received nothing in return," according to one news post.
The BBB advises consumers to look for its special seal when shopping online. Click on it to confirm its legitimacy. Check all businesses with the BBB before buying – especially when shopping on sites that aren’t household names.
It is important to extend that sense of caution to purchasing toys and gadgets online, experts warn. When certain items sell out at stores, those who appear to be advertising on Craigslist or eBay might actually be waiting to steal your money, according to reports.
Additionally, there is Identity Theft – thieves who snatch debit and credit cards and wallets.
Be extra careful with credit and debit cards. Cover the keypad when using your pin. Never lose track of your wallet. Be extra careful when getting ATM money.
And … very important: Please investigate all charities thoroughly before sending them any money whatsoever, BBB officials say.
"The holidays are a time of giving which creates a great opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets," states one BBB release.
To inquire about these issues, access Jacksonville/Cherokee County Crime Stoppers Hotline: (903) 586-7867 or access http://easttexas.bbb.org.