Published on: Thursday, December 1, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

Making sure these are happy holidays

We will gather with friends and family and hug them even more this year. Some of us will travel out of the area while others will stay here as guests or hosts. We’ll be doing Holiday shopping, and so will the scammers, pickpockets, and burglars. Here are some frequently asked questions, this time of year:

Q: I’m going away over Christmas for eight days. My nephew was going to stay here, but he now has another obligation. So the house will be empty. My neighbor said something about help from the Takoma Park Police Dept.

A: Yes, the TP Police Department can help. For those who are away 4-30 days, the police will do a “house check” (for free) to make sure no one has tampered with windows, doors, set a ladder, etc. Contact them in advance at 301-270-1100. If you are away up to three days, especially if there were problems in the area, call the TP Police–same number–for information on what you can do.

Q: I’m going to be away for several days three times this month. In addition to contacting the police, is there any other advice?

A: Let a neighbor, family member or friend in the area know you will be away and how to reach you. Use timers, so lights go on/off overnight at different times in the house and on the front porch.

Q: I have some jewelry from my mother and grandmother, tablecloths that my grandparents bought when they first came to the U.S., and other items that aren’t financially valuable but very special to me. How can I protect these valuables, such as jewelry, laptops, phones, etc., while I’m away or during the day when I’m at work?

A: Make an inventory of these valuables and take pictures. Then engrave them and record serial numbers. Put all this information in a safe place, and tell someone you trust how to access it in case you are away. Note: If these items are pawned, it’s legal in Maryland for police to go to pawn shops and check.

Q: I like to order online. I’ve learned about scammers and data breaches from the news. What can I do?

A: (1) Use a credit card, instead of debit card because there are more protections with credit cards, and the money isn’t instantly taken from your bank account. (2) If you have two credit cards, use one for onsite shopping only and a different one for online shopping. In case of a credit breach or abuse of your online card, you would still have the onsite card. This also gives you an easy way to track your online purchases on one statement. (3) According to, “E-cards, fake advertisements for deals, infected attachments and links to phony websites disguised as Christmas cards: Scammers have many routes to attack your devices. Fake notifications about package delivery problems are common during the holidays.” Do not click on these email messages. Instead go back to your original site and put in the tracking number you received. (4) Be sure to let the credit card company know if you are traveling, and where you are going, so use of the card can be pre-approved.

Remember: Being prepared prevents being scared! Have a wonderful holiday season.

This article appeared in the December 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.