Monday, November 7, 2011

Stay Safe and Stress-Free This Thanksgiving

SecurityProUSA Monthly Digest

Security Pro Monthly Digest

Welcome to November, folks! Halloween is gone, now we are sailing into Thanksgiving. And for some of us the last fall month comes with a hefty bit of traveling and house parties. Do you know what it takes to stay safe during the holidays, keep your home secure, your parties sound, and your travel and shopping stress-free?
In this issue of Security Pro USA Monthly Digest our experts highlight major security threats and advise for overcoming them.

Travel Safety
Thanksgiving is undoubtedly the busiest travel time of the year, and regardless what means of transportation you choose, there are a few helpful tips to take advantage of.

If you are flying out:
airport terminal image

  • Avoid flying the day before and on the Sunday right after Thanksgiving. The best days are Monday and Friday of the Thanksgiving week.
  • Travel light to avoid the extra luggage fees (we all know airlines have no shame left when it comes to nickel and dime'ing you), but don't forget that the overhead compartment gets awfully full(especially if you are in Zone 4 boarding and see the plane fill up before you get a chance to step on board). Try to pick a bag that would fit, if worse comes to worst, under the seat in front of you.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the airport, there will be tons of similar fellow travelers trying to check in or go through security.
  • The new full body scanner security systems are used nowadays in more than 70 US airports, and if you are concerned about your personal privacy or health due to the radiation produced by the scan you can always opt for an old-fashioned pat-down, which might take longer.
  • Flying first thing in the morning is cheaper as well as flying from smaller local airports.
  • The week after Thanksgiving is a dead week for travel, so if you did not make it during the high-price airfare craze it could be a good idea to visit the loved ones "when all calmed down". Less stress, more savings.
  • Keep all the documents required for travel at all times on you and in one place. Getting a special travel wallet might be a good idea - the one that holds your ID, your passport, and your boarding passes. Print your boarding passes at home, if you can. Most airlines open their online check-in as early as 24 hours prior to the flight. Take advantage of it!
  • Check out this helpful TSA link to see which items are allowed and which are not to be carried on board, which must be packed in your cheked-in luggage, and which to be best left home!
  • And finally - this one is obvious but it is a good idea to repeat it nevertheless: make sure that your name matches the one on your ticket or boarding pass. With airport security measures being more strict as ever, a single letter discrepancy can cost you a lot of nerves and time wasted in setting the record straight.
If you are driving:

If the airfare is an absolute deal breaker this season (with high fuel cost and fewer flights this year airline companies are charging an arm and a leg for even once affordable destinations), and you opt for driving to your Thanksgiving dinner destination, keep in mind that millions of other fellow travelers will hit the road in turkey frenzy this time of year. In order to minimize hazards and delays, follow the following useful guidelines: highway traffic image
  • Try to avoid the highways on the Wednesday before the Turkey Day and the following Sunday.
  • Plan your road trip ahead of time and have a GPS as a back up in case you have to change your route due to emergency or other unforeseen circumstances. A smart phone and an old-school map can be another set of your little helpers in devising a Plan B.
  • Don't forget the exact change for the tolls and fill up your tank before you venture out. It's a good idea to never let your tank go more than half empty at all times.
  • Make sure to stop every couple of hours for a coffee break and a stretch. You might think you are not tired, but fatigue usually springs on you from the left field when least expected, fast and furious.
  • This one is obvious but nevertheless we somehow all fail to abide by this rule: don't text and drive. If you absolutely must make a call while driving, use a hands-free device.
  • And finally - maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front, and don't succumb to road rage. After all, most of the fellow drivers are also just trying to get home safe to enjoy a nice dinner in the company of the loved ones.
If driving is not an option, check out cross country buses and train systems but be prepared to show your ID on the train along with the boarding ticket.

Home Safety
One of the times your home is most vulnerable is when it is left empty for an extended period of time, such as during your Thanksgiving getaway trip. Darkened windows, a stack of newspapers in the overflowing mailbox, and dying plants on the balcony or patio all advertise your absence to a potential burglar. In contrast, turning on lights, radios or TV's and opening and closing curtains will give your apartment the appearance that someone is home.
cottage house
  • The best protection for your apartment during your absence is to have a house sitter. A friend or a neighbor you trust staying at your house can take care of your pets and/or plants, pick up any packages delivered to your porch while you are gone, in addition to making sure the house looks inhabited. You can repay the favor by doing the same for them.
  • Warn the neighbor who has your key not to put your last name, address or even your house number on your keys in case they fall into the wrong hands.
  • Make sure whoever is checking your apartment while you are away knows how to work your alarm system and who to call in case of a problem.
  • If you don't have anybody to house sit or check your apartment while you are away, you should think of keeping not only light but a TV or radio on a timer.
  • If you rent, don't forget to check your lease. Many landlords require that you notify them if your apartment is going to be left empty for any period of time (this is so they can enter in case of emergency even if they can't reach you).
  • It is a generally good idea to fit mortise locks or bolts to all outside doors, and locks to all downstairs or easily accessible windows.
  • Cut the lawn before you go and trim back any plants that burglars could hide behind.
  • If you leave keys with a neighbor, don't label them with your address. Don't leave valuables, such as TV, stereo or video system where people can see them through the windows.
  • Mark any valuable items with your postcode and house number using an invisible pen that you can get from DIY shops. If your property is stolen, this will help the police to identify it if it is found, which might not only allow them to return it to you but could also provide them with better evidence to convict those responsible.
  • Make sure that you have up-to-date contents insurance.
  • Lock the garage and shed with proper security locks, after putting all your tools safely away so they cannot be used to break into your house. If you have to leave a ladder out, put it on its side and lock it to a secure fixture with a 'close shackle' padlock or heavy-duty chain.
  • Finally, lock all outside doors and windows. If you have a burglar alarm, make sure it is set and that you have told the police who has the key.
  • And just before you set off, it's worth spending a couple of minutes checking that you have done all you had to do and taken everything that you need with you.
  • And the last but not the least - is there a Neighborhood Watch scheme where you live? Your local police will tell you if there is a scheme in your area or help you set up one of your own. It could help you keep your home secure while you are away, and has many other crime prevention and community benefits.
  • And finally - have a good and most importantly - safe trip!

Party Safety
We all enjoy hosting or going to a social event, and Thanksgiving is not an exception for those. Whether you are in a family circle enjoying the company of your loved ones, or at a party with a couple of your friends surrounded by unknown people, always place personal safety as the top priority. Remember: drugs and alcohol can affect your ability to make decisions. It is easy to forget oneself in the merry atmosphere of a party, but keep in mind a few important things:
food banquet
  • Always get your own drink or watch it being poured and never leave it unattended.
  • Drugs used to spike drinks, such as Rohypol, ecstasy, or GHB/GLB are usually colorless, odorless and tasteless and are powerful behavior and lead to disorientation and false intoxication.
  • Dispose of your drink if you think it tastes odd (if you just leave it, someone else may drink it).
  • Watch out for your friends and be aware of their behavior. Make sure they are safe.
  • It is a good idea to establish a signal system to let your friends know if something is going wrong.
  • It is also a good idea to set the limit to alcohol consumption and stick with it.
  • Encourage people who are drunk to drink water or eat something. Keep an eye on them, if you can.
  • If you are going home with someone different, let someone know. Introduce them so your friends.
  • If you are hosting a party know whom you have invited and plan what you will do if there are gatecrashers.
  • Provide food and non-alcoholic drink spacers like water, soft drinks, or juice.
  • Keep a look out for your guests. Make sure they are safe and having a good time.
  • Offer to organize taxis for your guests if they need one. Take a note of the taxi company you have called.
  • Create a safe atmosphere and don't be afraid to call the police if you know someone is harassing or intimidating someone else. Trust your instincts. Stay safe yourself and ask for help if you need it.
  • And here is one more: please don't drink and drive.
Have a merry and safe party experience!

Shopping Safety
The holiday season is not only a time when we celebrate and have fun, it is also a time when petty criminals are on the lookout for the next vulnerable victim to fall prey to their schemes. Various con-artists will try various methods to distract you and take possession of your money or belongings. With The Black Friday following in the footsteps of Thanksgiving get-togethers, it is important to think about a few simple but effective preventive measures to help keep your holiday season merry and loss-free.
escalator in a mall
  • Always dress casually and comfortably.
  • Avoid wearing flashy expensive jewelry.
  • Do not carry large amounts of cash with you.
  • If you do carry cash, place it in the front pocket.
  • Never leave your bag unattended and always make sure its closing mechanism, such as zipper, is securely fastened at all times.
  • If you do not have a record of all your credit or debit cards at home, make it now and store it in a secure place. Make sure you include the telephone numbers of the card issuers, so that you could call them immediately in case your credit or debit cards are stolen.
  • Avoid hauling a million of packages on you, it is extremely important to have clear visibility and motion freedom to avoid accidents and mishaps.
  • If you have to shop late at night, always bring a friend or a family member with you.
  • Always have your keys ready when you walk to your car in the parking lot and avoid dark, poorly lit spots.
If you shop online, it is wise to always keep the following in mind:
keyboard of a laptop
  • There are different levels of security available online and it is in your best interests to be aware of them. Limit your shopping spree to secure sites. Always look for a small lock icon in the lower right corner of the screen.
  • When your financial information is being processed, check to see that the page address (URL) starts with HTTPS:// which stands for "Secure Protocol" and ensures that you are using an encrypted communication path. This way you will know that your personal information you are transmitting to the seller is safe.
  • Always do all your online shopping at home. And we are not just talking about your personal comfort here - public computers are in no way secure because they can store your personal information in small files called "Cookies" that can become available to the next person using the machine. Avoid shopping on your personal laptop while you are connected to a public free wireless service in the local coffee shop. Your personal information may be compromised, as you are sharing the same channel with possibly thousands of other people.
  • Choose credit card over debit at the checkout. Credit cards offer protection from identity theft while debit cards do not.
  • Consider getting a disposable credit card. It works much like a gift card: you add a certain amount to it and replenish it or get another one of those after it is all gone. Disposable cards are anonymous, thus your identity is not compromised in case the number of the card is stolen.
  • This one is obvious but we are never tired of repeating it: never, never disclose your social security information to any online vendor, unless you are applying for financing or a store credit card. Also if you are just ordering a product online, keep your birthday date unknown to the seller - such information is one of the few pieces of the puzzle a scammer needs to put together in order to compromise your identity.
  • Make sure you know your online vendor's physical address. This way you will avoid a major headache in case you need to return the purchase.
  • Always check the refund, return, exchange, and shipping policy. Do not skip the fine print. You don't need unpleasant surprises along the road.
  • Read carefully seller's privacy policy. Make sure your personal information is not shared with "third parties".
Now, when all is said and done, relax and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Security Pro USA

10530 Venice Blvd.

Los Angeles, California 90232 USA

Copyright © 2011 Security Pro USA. All rights reserved.


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