Keeping the holiday safe for shoppers

by Jo Anne Embleton

Protect your holiday gifts from porch pirates and other unsavory characters looking to score free gifts and free money from unsuspecting consumers.

According to C + R Research’s 2021 Package Theft Statistics Report, approximately a quarter of respondents (23 percent) have had a package stolen, while 30 percent have had packages stolen more than once. And, 60 percent know someone who has had a package stolen (

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Cyber Crimes Detective JC Bonet offers several suggestions to protect your online purchasing:

• Always be sure the company you’re buying from is the actual company, “because thieves set up phony websites with a similar name to steal people’s money, so you want to make sure it’s not some guy who set up a fake site.”

• Buy a prepaid debit card to pay for online purchases. “That way, if the card is compromised, they only get access to funds in that particular account, and not your bank account.”

• If a purchase has been made on a credit or bank card, “the second you discover it’s not legitimate, shut the card down if it’s a credit card, or if it’s linked to a bank, there are emergency numbers listed on your card that you can call in situations like that.”

• Don’t shop advertisers posted on social media accounts. “No one monitors what others post, as far as those kinds of ads, and a lot of scams are posted that look legitimate on its face.”

• If a purchase is hard to trace – one which doesn’t use a credit card to pay for purchases – “walk away. The biggest ones to watch for are Cash App and Venmo, which are very hard to track (and are unmonitored). When they get paid, it’s easy for someone to shut down an account, and they and your money are gone.”

“There are so many things to watch out for during the holiday season, and I always tell people that if it seems to be too good to be true, then it isn’t any good,” Bonet said.

The C + R site notes that “more than half of respondents (57 percent) plan to stay home to await the arrival of their packages,” while “other consumers (40 percent) have adopted additional security features like a doorbell camera or motion-sensitive lights to deter and catch (thieves) who might swipe deliveries.”

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to thwart porch pirates, or the people who steal packages and purchases from a physical site:

• Don’t leave delivered packages unattended. If possible, don’t leave delivered packages unattended for long periods of time.

• Take advantage of online tracking services offered by retailers; if the company says it was delivered but it’s not at the delivered address, report it.

• Consider monitoring the front door. If you have a home security camera system, make sure it captures activity at your front door and mailbox. If you catch any mail thieves in the act, save the video and alert your local Postal Inspectors. Video surveillance goes a long way in preventing crimes and catching bad guys.

• Customize the delivery. If you know the package is going to be larger than the mailbox, authorize the carrier to leave it in a specified out-of-sight location. You can also request pick-up at their facility.

• Secure the shipment. Signature confirmations ensure that the package ends up in the right hands. Register your most valuable packages so special care and documentation is used every step of the way. Ship your packages to where you are, not where you aren’t.

• Talk to employers. See if they'll agree to having packages delivered to the workplace instead of the home address.

• Watch for suspicious activity. Some thieves follow delivery trucks waiting for the opportune time to steal packages. If you notice something out of place in your neighborhood, report it to the proper authorities with specific details.