HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The holiday season is a time for giving and sharing, but some people aren’t waiting for a gift. They are helping themselves to what doesn't belong to them. What tricks are thieves up to this year and how can you protect yourself from them?
To stay a step ahead of scammers, robbers and burglars during this season, you need to be aware of schemes like "jugging," which target people who use automated teller machines.
Modern-day pirates are on the prowl. One of the oldest tricks in the book is thieves selling things that are not what they seem.
When you look at home security videos of crooks caught in the act, it’s clear that the Grinch, or at least his mean-spirited ways, is not just a fictional character.
Franchele Young’s home camera caught an accused crook in action eight seconds after FedEx delivered a flat-screen television to her front door in the Mission Bend subdivision. On the video, you see a man walk right up and take the TV. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has made that video so that the accused thief can begin his stay in jail sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, this is the season for "porch pirates" to strike, stealing packages delivered to the front door.
"Maybe ask your neighbor who’s home to bring that package inside for you," explains Sgt. Joshua Nowitz with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Unit. "If possible, try and get packages delivered to your employment, if your job will allow that.”
Sgt. Nowitz also reminds everyone to pay attention at the ATM or he says you could fall victim to "jugging."
"There are organizations, and it is organizations and it is organized, that monitor people at ATMs and follow them in order to rob them or break into their vehicle and steal money they may have left,” adds Sgt. Nowitz. He also says there was a time when he told people not to leave valuables “visible" in their vehicles, but what does he suggest now? Remove everything from your vehicle before parking it.
"Because people are breaking into cars, especially this time of year," describes Sgt. Nowitz.
If you're meeting someone to buy something you saw for sale on a website, Sgt. Nowitz says of course meet in public, but also pay using a method the website endorses so you can dispute the charge if necessary.
And if you’re doing the selling?
"You do need to be concerned about counterfeit money," says Sgt. Nowitz. "It’s still a thing in 2018. It’s about to be 2019 and we’re still talking about it. Counterfeit checks, counterfeit money orders” and counterfeit products, such as bogus phone chargers.
"You have to be careful about things like that because they can cause fires," adds Sgt. Nowitz. He also suggests that people park in a well-lit area when shopping at night and check credit card purchases daily online rather than waiting for the monthly statement to arrive in the mail.