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Holiday Safety: Don't be a Victim

By Jon Cawley

With the holidays and the end of the fall semester here, it is important to recognize the importance of not only securing personal belongings but self as well while preparing to leave for the break. And with the shopping season in full swing, it is also important to remember to look out for scams designed to steal money and personal information, especially while shopping online.

In preparation for hitting the road, Student Engagement and Enrollment Services offers these tips:

  • While packing your car, be sure to lock it each time you leave it. Even if you are only running back into your apartment to grab another bag, lock your car. It only takes a moment for someone to take belongings out of an unlocked car.
  • Put valuables in a safe place and out of sight in your apartment. Do not leave electronics or other valuables near windows or in plain view.
  • Confirm all windows and doors are locked before heading out for the break. Also, close curtains and blinds, especially if you are in a first-floor unit.
  • Ask a friend or neighbor who will be staying in the area to check on your apartment over break.
  • Be sure to leave a phone number where you can be reached in an emergency. If you are staying in the area and would like the ODU Police to provide extra patrols of your off-campus residence, contact the community policing unit at the main desk (757-683-4000).

The FBI warns that criminals don't take the holidays off and are busy with their own holiday preparations.

The federal agency advises that consumers should be wary that scammers may offer too-good-to-be-true deals through phishing e-mails or advertisements. Some may offer brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or promise gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product. Others may offer products at a great price, but the products being sold are not the same as the products advertised, according to a release.

Additionally, the FBI warns:

  • Do not open any unsolicited e-mails and do not click on any links attached. Steer clear of suspicious sites, phishing e-mails, or ads offering items at unrealistic discounts.
  • When shopping online, make sure a site is secure and reputable before providing credit card information.
  • Beware of social media posts that appear to offer special vouchers or gift cards. Some may pose as holiday promotions or contests. It may even appear that a friend shared the link. Often, these scams lead you to participate in an online survey that is actually designed to steal personal information.
  • Secure banking and credit accounts with strong and different passwords, as well as all other accounts that contain anything of value.
  • Check credit card and bank statements regularly to make sure no fraudulent charges have been made.

If you suspect you've been victimized:

  • Contact your financial institution immediately upon suspecting or discovering a fraudulent transfer.
  • Request that your bank reach out to the financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent.
  • Contact local law enforcement.
  • File a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, regardless of dollar loss.

For more information on contributing to a safe and secure campus community, visit ODU's Living Safely website where the LiveSafe app can be downloaded and arrangements can be made to receive window/door locks and alarms for off-campus residences - all free from the University.