Please join in singing, to the tune of the “Jingle Bells” chorus:

Credit cards

Pocket books

Gifts that got away

Wish I had my money back

Or they’d put those crooks away.

How do you protect against holiday crime?

Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry advises shoppers to park in well-lit areas and keep vehicles locked,

If after exiting a store, you see someone suspicious near your car in the parking lot, go back inside the store and get someone to come out with you, Perry said. If someone suspicious approaches you in a parking lot, back away, tell the person to get away from you, yell for help, hit your car alarm and head back toward the store. Call 911 if needed. Perry said he’d rather have an officer come out and investigate suspicious activity than for a crime to occur.

Don’t leave your wallet, purse or packages unattended in a store, Perry said.

Don’t leave expensive items where they are visible through the glass of your vehicle, he added.

If you need to meet someone for a personal sales transaction for items purchased online, try to do it at the Henry County or Martinsville safe exchange zone, Perry said. The county’s is in front of the sheriff’s office, and the city’s is in the parking lot behind the municipal building. Both have video surveillance. An alternative is to do the transaction at a well-known store where you will be photographed.

Perry said home security video equipment can help prevent home break-ins. He encourages neighbors to watch out for each other and report suspicious activity.

Brad Salois, a spokesman for the Better Business Bureau, advises shoppers to read product reviews and check BBB.org for business profiles.

When using your mobile device to research or make purchases, ensure you’re using the recently updated version of apps and operating system on the phone. Actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera, and make sure apps use them appropriately, he said.

Before sending personal and sensitive information, ensure the website has https:// (“s” for secure) at the beginning of the web address, Salois said.

When in stores, avoid using banking or other apps that access sensitive personal information. Public Wi-Fi is vulnerable to thieves and fraudsters, he said.

Don’t click on links from email senders you don’t recognize. Scammers can mimic well-known retailers’ emails and websites, Salois said.

As you near your vehicle, have your keys in hand and check around the vehicle and the back seats before getting inside, he added.

Kimberly Keller, uptown entrepreneurial manager of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, said in-store shoppers should be aware of their surroundings, and limit the amount of cash and the number of cards they carry. They should keep an eye on children with them and educate them on what to do if separated.

Be leery of websites if pictures are poor quality, prices are extremely low or typos are present, Keller advises online shoppers.

When you expect a delivery, ensure someone is home when the package is to be delivered, she added. If no one can be home then, have the package sent to a neighbor or workplace after getting permission. You may be able to request a signature be required for a package, delivery times or other special instructions.

Use store pickup, if available, she said.

“While posting pictures of holiday goodies may seem like a good idea, refrain,” Keller said. “This could invite unwanted visitors to your home.… When disposing of trash, ensure boxes/packages do not visibly display what was packed, as this will often attract attention of unwanted visitors as well.”

Paul Collins reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at paul.collins@martinsvillebulletin.com

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