Holiday tips

Unfortunately with the holiday season, we at the Brown County Sheriff’s Office see a definite increase in people who are trying to scam others. In order to make this season more enjoyable and productive, I would like to pass on a few tips to make the public a little more prepared and keep from becoming a victim.

The main focus is to never give out personal information over the phone or computer. Many scammers are smooth and convincing. There are so many different scams these days, it’s virtually impossible to keep track of them all. They range from individuals claiming to be relatives of county residents who are in desperate need of money, to residents being notified they have won huge amounts of money overseas and all that is needed is bank account information so the funds can be transferred.

I am asking folks to remember this key point: if something sounds too good to be true — it is most likely a scam! No one is going to randomly give away cash or vehicles.

These scammers make their living by convincing a very small percentage of people to send them money or provide personal information, and the longer they can keep you on the phone the easier it is for them to gather your personal information.

New scams are evolving all the time, so as a rule of thumb – never give out personal information over the phone or computer. There are IRS scams, social security scams, publishers clearing house scams, unemployment scams, home repair scams, computer scams, car warranty scams and inheritance scams just to name a few.

Remember, never give out personal information over the phone or on the internet. If you are unsure about an issue that may be a scam, contact your local law enforcement at once. Scammers who call repeatedly can sometimes be deterred by simply telling them to contact local law enforcement and provide them with our number and then hang up. If a scammer knows law enforcement is involved, they usually move on to an easier target.

At Home Tips

Interior lighting can make a big difference when burglars are looking for a place to break into. A dark home at regular hours indicate that no one is home and sets up a routine for burglars. From this, burglars can figure out what schedules a family has. One way to alter this is to purchase inexpensive timers for lamps, which indicate activity in the home and simulates occupancy. Radios and TVs also can be put on timers. It’s also a way you can have a lighted home when you arrive after dark. Trusted family or friends also could turn on your lights, radios or TVs throughout the day or night to give the appearance that your home is inhabited.

Exterior lighting itself deters burglars. It also gives the family a well-lit path to their home and illuminates a possible threat. Most potential burglars will not choose a well-lit residence to break into for fear of being identified. There are several lighting choices available. Motion detection and heat-motion detection are at the top of the list, followed by dusk to dawn “eye” lights and then lights controlled by a switch in the home.

Some homeowners use security cameras with exterior lighting in the perimeter of their home. Placebo security cameras also are available, which look realistic to potential home invaders but are just a decoy. Porch lights left on all day so the area will be lit at night is a clue that a family is not home, as well as an accumulation of mail and newspapers. Trail cameras are becoming more popular, and there are models on the market now that have a “black flash,” which means they are almost undetectable at night.

Home safes also are a plus, as families can store valuables in them with a greater peace of mind knowing they will be secure. Better-quality home safes are a good investment if they are properly anchored within the home. Make sure to anchor these safes as recommended by the manufacturer, or intruders could carry them out of the home. Never keep the key or combination to these safes where an intruder can readily find them.

Alarm systems are an ideal form of protection, but response time can be a factor in rural areas. Alarm company signs and decals in windows help deter criminals. Most burglars will not attempt home invasions where alarms systems are in place. One tip is to not write your alarm security code on or near the keypad of the system.

A loud audible alarm is very effective when the secured area of the home is breeched. This usually sends the burglar running, and the louder the better in rural areas, as neighbors can be few and far between. Making sure your alarm call list is current also is a big plus. Many people are using security cameras that they can monitor off-site when they are not at home, these are very good options.

Burglars are also not fond of gate fences that have to be manipulated for entrance or exit. Families that have either an inside or outside dog that alerts the family or neighbors by barking also is a good deterrent. Driveway alarms that sound when vehicles drive over them are a good investment also.

Good, trusted neighbors are a definite benefit. This is the original version of “neighborhood watch” — neighbors helping neighbors. They look out for each other and are able to watch out for your home when you are away. Neighbors can help in many different ways such as picking up mail, mowing yards or shoveling snow to give the illusion of occupancy, doing a walk-around outside the home to check for damage and parking in unoccupied driveways to give the appearance someone is home.

It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with your neighbors and build a network of friends to help each other in an emergency. Neighbors typically know what goes on in their neighborhood, whether it’s rural or city. If strange or unusual vehicles or people are driving or walking around your neighborhood and you become suspicious, call your local law enforcement and gain as much information as possible.

If you have a vacant house or property in a remote area, make sure to check on it often or have trusted relatives or friends look after the area. Many scrappers search for locations “off the grid” where they can sneak in and steal items such as copper wire, metal, antiques or anything else of value. To keep remote properties safer, use guard dogs, security or trail cameras and fences with locked gates, and make routine visits to the property at different times so a pattern is not established.

• If you’re ordering your gifts online, keep in mind that if you are not home, boxes sitting outside your home or apartment can easily be stolen. Consider being home when they are slated for delivery or asking a friend or relative to pick your packages up to keep them safe until your return.

• Did you purchase a big ticket item that came in a large box like a brand new HD television? Be sure to break down the box when you throw it away, otherwise you could be tempting potential thieves to come on in and steal it — and your other expensive items — away.

• If you’re going away for the holidays, be sure not to mention this on your voicemail or on social media until after you return.

Engraving your name on your valuables such as TVs, computers, electronics, etc. is a sure way to identify your stolen items when found. Do not engrave your social security number on your property. VINs of all vehicles, ATVs, etc. and serial numbers, make and model numbers of all guns, property, etc. should be recorded and put in a safe place for identification purposes. Photographs or using a video camera also should be used to document anything of value.

These records should be kept in a safe place at the home and also at another location in case of fire or misplacement. Receipts of larger or more valuable items should be kept for insurance purposes and identification. If you leave your wallet, purse or credit card information, this also should be recorded in case of theft, etc. This also can come in handy if your wallet or purse is ever stolen.

While nothing is ever a sure bet, these tips and pointers can help families feel more secure against intrusion and help identify their property if it would be recovered. Contact your Sheriff’s office or local law enforcement if you have any questions or concerns. I hope there are some things that families can use from this article to improve their home security and help from becoming a victim of burglary or home intrusion.

If residents see anything out of the ordinary, such as vehicles out late at night or in areas that seem strange, people walking in rural areas at odd hours, etc., try to safely obtain any information and call local law enforcement at once. Any identifiers such as license plate numbers, color or type of vehicle, number of occupants and person descriptors will help us in locating the individuals in question. We are very fortunate to have 24-hour patrol in Brown County and the assistance of tribal and City police departments, but we cannot be everywhere at once. For this reason, we rely on the public to assist whenever they can. Please contact your local law enforcement with questions or concerns.

The Elderly

BCSO would like to remind residents with elderly neighbors, friends and relatives, or even those with disabilities, to periodically check on them to ensure they have heat, are eating and drinking like they should and are not in need of medical attention. There are some folks who make it a point to regularly call or visit and deliver groceries and/or medications to those who require assistance. This is one of the benefits of living in a close knit community.

Holiday Shopping — Shop Safely

Remember, when you are out and about shopping this holiday season, crooks are always on the lookout for an easy target. Lock valuables in your trunk and never leave items such as cell phones, purses and major purchases in plain view. It only takes a minute for thieves to break into your vehicle and steal these items.

Always take advantage of well-lit areas and think twice before parking your vehicle somewhere you do not feel comfortable at. Always keep track of your purse, wallet, etc. Thieves are always on the look for these unattended items placed in the shopping cart. Always be aware of your surroundings.

• Keep your wallet in a tight location like a pants pocket or somewhere more secure in your purse rather than a loose location like your jacket pocket. It’s much more difficult for thieves to steal your wallet if it’s in a tighter location.

• If you’re using a purse, use one with one strap and keep it in front of you so that you may see it at all times. Never leave it on the ground or in the cart unattended.

• Cover your password if you use a public ATM in the mall so that potential thieves won’t be able to see any of your information.

• Carrying cash itself isn’t bad, but be sure not to carry too much in case it is misplaced or stolen.

Suspicious Vehicles or People

If you are concerned about suspicious vehicles or people, contact your local law enforcement at once, try to obtain as much information as you safely can. A tag number is ideal.

We here at the Sheriff’s office would like to wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy holiday season! I also would like to remind you all that we are constantly patrolling the county and will be there when you need us.

John Merchant23 Posts

John Merchant currently serves as Brown County (Kansas) Sheriff.

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