We often read about the generous things some people do for complete strangers during the Christmas Season. But the opposite is also true. This is the time of the year when crooks come out of the woodwork. With the “down economy” many people are hurting and committing crimes they might not have performed if they had a job. Merchants are the most at risk as the stores are crowded and it is easier for crooks to “do their thing” and not be noticed.

One of the most effective tricks is the Booster Box/Bag of which few of you have heard. This is a large box or bag with a false bottom that is often spring loaded. To use it the crook sets it down over a slightly smaller shopping bag, purse or product.
The Booster Box/Bag is hollow and when it is placed over another item, the spring loaded bottom secures the item about to be stolen. The thief then walks away without anyone seeing what happened. Common sense suggests it is easier to steal when the stores are very crowded and people are bumping into one another.
It is during this holiday season that you see more customers placing their purse or other purchases on the ground while they are shopping and looking at something on the counter. In addition to placing the booster box over the item on the ground, it can also be used by placing it over an item like Gucci purse on sales table. Like David Copperfield, all of a sudden ….poof…..the purse disappears. This is the same principle of distraction that magicians use for some of their tricks.
Now that you know there is such a device hopefully you will think twice about where you set your purse or bag down in an airport, hotel, coffee shop, department store or anywhere else a thief might be lurking.
Some thieves don’t need any equipment to steal. For instance a car can be stolen without obtaining the owner’s keys or hotwiring the car. The thief looks on the left front windshield for the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) number. They write the VIN number down and then go to the car dealership’s parts department and explain they own the car with that VIN number and they lost their keys. A new device to open the car will be provided to the thief… and then the rest is history.
Cell Phones are another popular target for thieves because they have private emails, bank account records, personal codes and passwords. Obtaining these items makes it easy to steal your money or ID. Often there are two crooks that work together with one bumping and distracting you and the other “picking your pocket.”
Your credit card information can also be stolen without taking the physical credit card. These sophisticated thieves have a RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device) which is half the size of a laptop. When they walk by you in a restaurant, airport or department store the card reading device, which costs less than $100, automatically steals your personal info off your credit card. The Radio Frequency Identification is a tiny chip in our credit and debit cards. If your card has the symbol of 4 waves )))) or says Pay Pass, Pay Wave or Blink it has RFID.
The bad guys can instantaneously transfer your personal information from the RFID onto a hotel credit card sized room key. That room key is now a “credit card” which can be used to swipe and charge things against your card account. To avoid this you can put your credit cards into a protective sleeve that has an aluminum lining. This type of theft can occur with your passport at an airport so you should buy protective sleeves for both.
With respect to credit cards when you receive them in the mail write “ASK FOR PHOTO ID” on the back, instead of signing your name. That gives you one more level of insulation against the bad guys.
Thieves are also known to wait in the parking lot at movie theatres and when you leave your car they break in and steal your registration and get the address of your home. They can then burglarize your home while you are watching the movie.
A car loaded with wrapped gifts is very tempting to someone down on their luck or just plain crooked. Never keep your purchases in plain sight. Always use your trunk.
Another scam used by crooks is to steal Library cards and check out and charge DVD’s from the Library onto your card and then sell them on the internet. If that happens you must contact the library to put a “hold” on your card.
You should report lost or stolen checks asap so the bank can block payment on them. You should also notify your banker of suspicious phones inquiries such as asking for account information to verify a statement or award a prize.
We all know that it is important to closely guard our ATM PIN and ATM receipts. You should shred any financial solicitations for credit cards as well as bank statements before disposing of them.
Remember to put outgoing mail into a secure, official postal service collection box. If regular bills fail to reach you, call the company to find out why. Credit reporting agencies must stop reporting alleged fraudulent account information when a consumer establishes that he or she has been the victim of an ID theft.
Creditors or businesses must provide copies of business records or fraudulent accounts or transactions related to them. This information can assist the victim in proving that they are in fact victims. However the first thing to do when you think you have been a victim is to contact the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department so you have a report to provide to insurance companies or credit agencies.
Consumers will be allowed to report accounts affected by ID theft directly to creditors in addition to credit reporting agencies to prevent the spread of erroneous information. To obtain a free credit report you can go to www.annualcreditreport.com or 877 322 8228.

IF your credit card is stolen report the theft to the major reporting agencies below. Here is some helpful information to assist you in doing so:
Equifax 1-800 525 6285: to place a fraud alert 888 766 0008. To order a credit report call 800 685 1111
Experian (formerly TRW 1-888 397 3742 to place fraud alert. To order a credit report call 888 397 3742
Trans Union 1-800 680 7289 to place a Fraud alert. To order a credit report call 800 888 4213
Social Security Administration (fraud line) 1-800 269 0271
As they say “Forewarned is forearmed!!!!” and “People Don’t Plan to Fail, They Fail to Plan”. So now that you have learned these lessons Plan Ahead and be aware of your surroundings.