Safety Tips During The Holidays
- While holiday shopping, do not ever store your purchases in your car, while you go back to continue your shopping, even if for a short period
- Watch out for packages that are going from the porch to the street - especially being carried by strangers
- Track your deliveries closely
Planning a Vacation?
Here are safety tips if you are planning to be out traveling these holidays
- You should always let your immediate neighbors and your zone block captain know about your vacation plans. Let them know about packages you are expecting, newspaper etc etc. Also, provide one of your neighbors a spare key in case there is a need to get inside your home in your absence, combination lock codes (if any), alarm code etc. Also, a good idea to have your garbage bins brought back in and NOT leave them standing outside when you are out.
- Request vacation patrol from the Sheriff's office by calling the non-emergency number. Go on-line to fill out a Patrol Check Request or call the West Valley Station at 408-868-6600 Here is the link http://www.sccgov.org/sites/sheriff/Pages/pcr.aspx
- Before you head out for your vacation, stop the mail (done online via the USPS site), stop newspaper (if any), have a neighbor pick up flyers and newspapers that get thrown on the driveway or left at the door.
- Before you leave, you should considering having a "talking camera” (example Nest, ring.com, Arlo) at your front door connected to smart phones of family/friends for monitoring. Lock your fence gates.
- An empty house is a tempting target for a burglar so make sure you do your best to have your home look occupied while you are away. Example Timer lights inside the home, parked car on the driveway etc.
- Do not post vacation pictures when you are out of town. Social media is being scored to identify people on vacation and break into their homes. Never broadcast your travel plans on a community email group, blog, Facebook, or other social networking site and remember if you check-in on Facebook, everyone knows you aren't home! Read this
- If you are parking a car at a long term parking lot, do NOT leave your registration, insurance car etc in your car- that will provide your address. In fact, use a marker and cross out your name, address from the registration/insurance copy. Do not have your home address on your GPS listed under HOME - If they break into your car, they now know where you live
- Always have one car parked in the driveway. Request a neighbor if they could move it a few yards every couple of days.
- Do not leave your garage door opener in your car. Even better, turn the power off for your garage door to prevent opening.
- Store all your computers, laptops, and storage media, which contain private & sensitive info outside the house. Backup your data before you go on a vacation
- Expensive jewellery need to be safely stowed away - at a storage or somewhere hard to access.
- Protect your Tax Return forms which contain SSN, Date of Birth etc.
- Scan your passports and important documents, email them to yourself in a password protected document in case they are lost during your travel.
—— OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS----------------
- Have a TV or music blaring inside the home - give your home a "lived in” look.
- Engrave your valuables with your phone number and place Operation Identification stickers on your entry door and front window.
- Never leave a house key hidden outside of your home. If it is hidden in a pot, under the mat, beneath a rock or in a fake rock someone else may find it and enter your home while you are away. §
- Arrange for someone to mow your lawn and maintain the yard while you are away, take out your recycle and trash bins. This keeps your home looking lived in. §
- Place your inside lights and music devices on timers so that they go on and off, periodically in the evening hours.
- Leave your blinds and drapes in their normal position on second floor windows (closed on ground level so no one can look inside and view an empty home).
- Remember, when you return home if it looks like someone has entered your home—Don’t go inside! Instead use a cell phone, go to a neighbor’s house or other safe location to contact the police. Let the police check the home before you go inside.
Teenagers Alone At Home?
We highly recommend that teenagers stay engaged with folks who arrive at the front door. Listening to music via headphones is NOT a good idea.
Teenagers don't need to respond to the door, but just create some noise inside, move curtains - that shows presence inside the home.
They should also be trained to report solicitation by calling the non-emergency number.
Here is action we can take:
- Expecting an Amazon package? Why don't you receive at the Amazon lockers in Safeway?
- Replace our mailbox with a locked mailbox. Does not need to be fancy, just a simple one from Ace/Home Depot/OSH that will provide you the deterrent.
- How about every mailbox in our neighborhood is one that is locked? That would be a strong message to thieve casing our neighborhood.
- Point a camera to our mailbox
- Not leave outgoing checks (payment envelopes) in the mailbox
: You cannot move your mailbox, or decide you want a slot in your front door. You have to get the permission of your postmaster
What should you do if you find your mail box was tampered with?
- Report to the sheriff, you want to document this incident in case you find identity theft etc
Car Thefts - How to Avoid
- LOCK ALL DOORS AND WINDOWS! The first step in maintaining the security of your car is by making sure the doors are locked and the windows are closed. Obviously, it's more difficult for a burglary to gain access to your property if they can't simply open the door and take it.
- Please park in well lit areas when in public spaces. Burglars tend to avoid well lit areas as an effort to not be seen. Leaving your car near a light post in a parking lot can help keep it safe during night time hours. At home, install motion lights in the area of your driveway or leave outdoor lights on at night.
- Make sure not to leave your personal property in plain sight when parking your car. For the most part, vehicle burglaries are a crime of opportunity. Burglars will look into your car through the windows to see if there is potentially anything of value before they actually break in. Bags, purses, electronics, etc are all things they may be looking for. Taking these items with you or placing them in the trunk before you leave can help deter a burglary of your vehicle.
- Take the time to look for video surveillance in the areas where you park -OR- establish some sort of vehicle surveillance system at your residence. Burglars also look for surveillance cameras in the area because they know video can act as a witness to the crimes they commit. They do not want to be seen, even if it's by a video camera.
Do You Shop Online?
FROM OUR SHERIFF : As you save time and money by shopping online, keep in mind of some of these precautions to prevent “porch shoppers” from stealing your goodies:
- Request the shipper to hold the package at their facility for pickup.
- When sending packages, take them to a post office or other shipping facility rather than leaving them outside your home for pickup.
- Request for a signature when sending out packages or notify the person you are sending the package so they can keep an eye out for it.
- Track deliveries online and confirm the delivery has occurred.
- If possible, have your package delivered to a location where it can be received by a trusted person.
- Ask neighbors who are home during the day to watch for deliveries.
- Provide delivery instructions so packages are left out of sight from the street.
- Show off your home security system by making sure you have a sign in the front yard. If you have security cameras, make sure potential thieves know they're there.
- Watch for cars following delivery trucks. Some thieves follow trucks around the neighborhoods waiting for the delivery to be made.
- Be a good neighbor and report any suspicious people and vehicles in your neighborhood.
Specific Product Suggestion
You are the ultimate decision maker with these products - below are just recommendations and considerations. Please purchase only after careful research and after reading the product reviews.
Talking Camera at your door
A doorbell+camera+motion sensor product at your door is a huge deterrent. A camera through which you can talk to the guy at the front door no matter where you are. We highly recommend adding this deterrent
You can get ADT or COMCAST or a product like this. Make sure you have a Shock sensor installed that will trigger an alarm for a glass breakage
PERIMETER YARD / DRIVEWAY ALARM SYSTEM
Yard fence lock
For Motion Sensor
Security bar to prop up against your door
Freeze Your Credit History - Prevent Identity Thefts
Prevent Fraudulent IRS Filings
- IRS: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/electronic-filing-pin-request
If you don't protect your tax filings, anyone can file taxes on your behalf (provided they have access to certain information about you) and claim money back from IRS as part of the return. When you file your return, it is then rejected by IRS. Make a pin request and prevent fraudulent filing.
Don't Get Scammed With Thretening Phone Calls
IRS will NEVER call threatening you with jail and asking for payment. Don't get scammed. When you get such a call, conference in 800-CALL-FBI. The calls will stop. Read about it hereHow to register your Surveillance Cameras?
Why register? By registering, you can help solve crime in SaratogaThe Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office would like to introduce a great resource website called CrimeReports.com. It allows free access to the last six months of reported crimes, including jurisdiction and location. CrimeReports.com also hosts a Camera Registration Program. This is a great way for the public to take a more active role in helping solve crimes in their community while protecting their own homes. By registering the location of your home security cameras, you might assist the Sheriff’s Office in supplying information needed to catch criminals that have burglarized your neighbors. Having camera footage of suspects is one of the most valuable tools law enforcement can use to identify criminal suspects. Your information is kept secure and never made public. You would still own the cameras, and your participation is always voluntary. To register your security camera, go to www.CrimeReports.com and click on the “register my camera” link. Then select the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office as your local law enforcement agency.
What is a Typical Burglary's Modus Operandi?
Here are the steps to a typical break-in:
- They ring your door bell to check if anyone is at home. No response?
- They check your fence gate. Oh, it is open?
- They are in your backyard now. They are looking for a window or door left open.
- Nothing is open? Never mind. It takes them 2 seconds to shatter your window or patio door to get an entry into your home, without triggering the door sensors. If you don't have a motion sensor - that may allow them a free romp into your home.They are in. If you have a motion sensor they are behaving like pet and crawling. Sometimes they will target breaking into the Master Bedroom door only - since it typically does not have a motion sensor.
Many a times they are looking to break into the Master Bed Room as it typically does NOT have a motion sensor. If they break a window and you don't have a Glass Break sensor, there are no triggers.
- They grab whatever they can and are gone in less than 10 minutes. What are they looking to steal? There are different tiers of thieves
There are the ones who are looking for anything, to feed their habits. If you read the Sheriff report, there are reports of folks being caught with drugs. These guys will take anything easy to grab and run
Then you have sophisticated thieves, who are very smart and have a solid understanding of how to break-in, going after your valuables
They are looking for things that cannot be traceable
Some theory says - their "Return on Investment" is $30K to $100K and if we don't provide them that return, they will go find another neighborhood.
- Gold ornaments
- The high ticket expensive items
Deterrents For Your Neighborhood
- Important to have a Neighborhood Safety Watch in place
- Enforce it. Be on your guard.
- Reignite the structure at an annual block party
- Consider placing cameras at the entrance/egress points of your neighborhood and announce it boldly to all who enter your neighborhood. Refer to rishikumar.com/pilot
- "No trespassing" or "no soliciting" signs mean no one except police can come onto your property.
- Be an aware neighbor. If you notice anything suspicious such as people you don't recognize, vehicles you don't recognize, open gates, open doors, open garage doors, open car doors or trunks, unknown persons entering backyards or side gates, call the Sheriff's dispatch.
- If your neighborhood agrees to, install security cameras to monitor street intersections that lead into their neighborhood if possible
- Know your neighbors well, watch out for them and have them watch out for you)
- Know what cars they own and the days their pool/home gets serviced
- Call your neighbors if you see any strange car parked by their home.
- Better to err on the side of caution here.
- If you discover a burglary in progress, call 911, stand back, observe and report. If you are calling from a cell phone, you may be directed to CHP so it is better to call your local dispatch directly at (408) 299-3211.
- Solicitors: For profit businesses need a permit to solicit door to door. Non-profits groups, churches or political campaigns do not.. There are folks casing our homes and neighborhoods. Proactively report them to the Sheriff - there is no need to confront suspicious behavior. DO NOT bring strangers into our neighborhood (example Craigslist contacts or recruiting folks from outside Home Depot for your house work. If you are getting a general contractor, ensure that they don't employ temp labor. "No trespassing" or "no soliciting" signs mean no one except police can come onto your property.
- Know how your city permit for soliciting looks like. City of Saratoga provides a 3"x 5" card with the city logo on it as the permit. Scroll down below to see the image of what the city of Saratoga permit looks like
Deterrents Outside Your Home
- First line of defense is a talking camera/ doorbell at your front door. Place cameras all around your home with the ability to monitor remotely
- Lock your fence gates. Specially secure every single door and window that is backyard facing. These are specially vulnerable as the thieves have all the time in the world to try to break them.
- Protect your phone line, ensure that it cannot be easily snipped. Pick an alarm system that is not dependent on the phone line
- Know your neighbors. Become their friends, help them, and they will help you. Keep an eye on their homes
- Think Deadbolts at key entry points into your home
- Install a mailbox with a lock to prevent identity thefts
- Don’t leave anything valuable in your car, whether visible or hidden
- That means no laptop bags, smart phones, or GPS systems sitting on your dashboard
- Install Motion Sensor lights around your home
- Install security cameras front, specially around the entrance and around your backyard
- "Beware of dog" sign is another deterrent.
- Place signs: This home is under video surveillance
- Do not leave anything outside the home that points to the ethnicity of the family. What you leave outside the home, defines your persona, and can turn your home into a potential target. Specifically, do not leave anything outside, that looks valuable. You don't want to have someone walk over to your front door, and then getting other ideas in the process.
- Keep the barriers to entry high. Lock your fence doors. Specially secure every single door and window that is backyard facing. These are specially vulnerable as the thieves have all the time in the world to try to break them.It is also a good idea to have tall 7 feet fence .
- Do not leave spare keys under doormats, in carport, under pots, etc. If you must have a spare key in the yard, make it really difficult to find
- Statistically, homes with pet dogs are burglarized less frequently
- Homes with alarm systems or even signs for alarm systems are less likely to get burglarized
- Never leave notes on your door such as “Gone shopping.”
- Don't leave items in plain view, including gps, ipods, bluetooth headsets, purses, briefcases, etc
- Don't leave a garage opener visible in your car. They will likely smash your window to get access to your garage.
- If you are going to be parking the car at a long term parking lot etc., do not leave paperwork or anything with identifying information in the car, that will lead to a break-in while you are vacationing.
- Always lock your car. So many vehicles in our city are left unlocked overnight
- Thieves are lately breaking into cars to steal garage door openers and car registration, then robbing the house while you are away. (This is happening at long term parking lots at airports, but even happened at Sacred Heart. The recommendation is to put your vehicle registration information in a plastic bag in a compartment in the trunk of your car.)
- Clearly mark your home address, big contrasting numbers in front, facing the street unobstructed.
- If you have a gate, note that it could also lock out the police. Tell the police office your gate code.
- Don't hide a key outside but consider a locking spare key holder
Deterrents Inside Your Home
- Call the non-emergency number of the Sheriff's office and invite them to assess "how safe your home is" it is a free service
- Place cameras inside the home to monitor when you are away
- Look into putting alarm systems - please turn on the alarm in the night too prior to sleeping. We have heard of homes being broken into in the middle of the night.
- Ensure that your alarm sound is heard outside the home (place a unit outside your home)
- Motion Sensors, Windows/Door Sensors, Glass sensors, Outdoor alarm unit
- Protect your data (photos, videos, SS#, personal records to avoid identity thefts, you can even lock your credit history).
- Protect your data on the cloud, in case you happen to lose your computers and laptops
- Document your serial numbers of valuable items. Scratch your driver's license number into valuable items, putting CA in front of the number. Items to mark include cameras, laptops, computers. They are very valuable proof points to catch the thieves and prove it in court.
- Scan your social security cards, passports, marriage certificates etc. and back them onto the cloud. Insurance pays a maximum of couple hundred dollars for replacing papers. This is woefully insufficient. If you plan to keep papers at home, check with your insurance for additional coverage. • Keep your backup drives locked at a place outside of home eg. work. Do not keep jewellery at home but in the bank locker.
- Password protect every single computer and hard drive you have - you don't want someone else to get access to your personal files.
- Dowels at all windows and sliding door for added security, don't make it easy for these guys to break in - put every and all deterrents in place.
- Make a video of your home and/or take pictures of all valuable stuff at home. Save it online or back it up and store in a bank (see below).
- Break-in attempts happen after confirmation of "no one at home" by ringing the front door bell . Install a doorbell/camera device that sends a video of anyone who gets near your "door bell camera". With these devices, you can even talk to the person at the front door, while you vacation in Hawaii, without the person knowing if you are truly at home or not
- Lock the doors, do not leave them open, not even for pets
- All doors leading to the outside should have solid cores, 1" deadbolts and long screws so the door can't be kicked in
- Pay special attention to the security of the garage side door. Is it locked?
- use a peephole with 190 degree view and do not answer if you don't know the person
- Lock all windows while sleeping (burglaries rise in the summer when people leave their windows unlocked)
- Use ventilation locks as well as auxiliary locks on the windows
- Make sure all windows, including bathroom windows, are locked when you leave the home
- Keep garage doors closed unless actually in the garage
- Keep tools out of view
- Keep side doors locked
- Fence Gates:
- use automatic timers throughout the house so that they turn on every night. Better to be paranoid about this. When you are out for an evening with friends, the automatic timers will automagically light up your home
- use motion sensing lights outside
If you have a firearm, lock it up and keep it away from children. An alternative to firearms is pepper spray. Legal sized pepper spray can be bought at Fry's or Sporting Goods stores.
Datapoint: 57.4% of the burglaries occur during the day, 42.6% at night
The modus operandi of these thieves, and many others like them, is to park a car at the end of a street and walk around ringing door bells . If no one opens the door then the partner goes to the back to see if entry into the house is possible. If not, they move over to the next house. Multiple pairs may operate in a neighborhood at a time. They usually avoid confrontation but it seems injuries due to confrontations have happened in the past.
Seniors, Don't Get Scammed
There are many IDENTITY THEFTS happening. Seniors are often targeted, particularly if they are NOT sure about the latest technology.
Identity theft happens when someone uses another individual's personal information to obtain or attempt to obtain credit, goods, services, property or medical information without the consent of that individual.. Phishing, a common way criminals can get a victim's personal information. Phishing is when a criminal impersonates businesses to trick someone into giving out their personal information. Be very careful when someone asks for personal information over the phone.
DO NOT ever give our Social Security numbers to a person
DO NOT send money to a loved phone because they are in trouble and a law enforcement calls you. A law enforcement officer would never call to tell someone they had a warrant or alert a family member. Bail would never be paid with gift cards.
There are many reports of criminals calling people pretending to be a family member that needs money. Are you sure you want to wire money to a foreign country? The answer is NO, NO, NO Elderly people are usually targeted and the criminal will pretend to be a grandchild or other family member who is traveling abroad.
For more information about identity theft, visit the Department of Justice's Fraud Department website at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html. If you think you have been a victim of identity theft or phishing you can call the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department at 408.868.6600.
Protect Yourself Form Identity Thefts
- Mail theft and identity theft are increasing. Do not leave mail in your mailbox, drop it in a postal box or at the post office. Check your credit report regularly. Use firewall/virus protection and keep it updated. Do not give your personal information to someone who calls you. Only give your information if you have called them and you know the number is valid. If someone calls and gives you a number to call back, verify the number online.
- You can freeze your credit with all 3 credit rating against. (Much cheaper then "LifeLock". For retired people it cost $5 to $10 each one time payment. With no credit score. thieves are unable to get credit card or loans with our identity. Visit all 3 credit score info companies for instructions how to do it.
- It has been reported that Social Security numbers are used to submit fraudulent Tax filing with IRS (and get cash back from IRS).
What does a City of Saratoga Permit to Solicit Look Like?
If You Experienced A Burglary
- Call the police. Calling 911 is your best bet. If you have a security system, and the alarm sounded, they will have called the police already. Give them a list of stolen items with serial numbers, if you have them. If you remember more items later, fax them an updated list. Make sure you get a receipt with a case number from the police.
- If you have lost your passport, report it as stolen. For U.S. passports, call the U.S. passport center at (877) 487-2778. They are open 6am-midnight Eastern Time. Give them the names and passport numbers of missing passports. See further down for details on re-applying for a passport.
- If you have lost your social security card, put a credit fraud alert on all compromised numbers. There are three credit reporting agencies in the U.S. - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Calling TransUnion will result in information being passed on to the other two agencies as well. Call TransUnion at (800) 680-7289 and enter the social security numbers there. Credit fraud alert requires that potential lenders contact you before issuing new credit.
- You may want to consider putting a credit freeze on compromised numbers. This has to be done separately with each of the three credit reporting agencies, and in writing too. It is free if you have proof and police case for credit fraud. Else, you can do this by paying $10 to each of the agencies. A credit freeze disallows a credit check on your account. You have to pay $10 to each of the agencies to lift the freeze temporarily.
- If you have lost credit cards, call the credit card companies and cancel cards.
- If you have lost ATM cards or checks, call the banks and cancel ATM cards and put a stop payment on checks. You will need to know the range of check numbers to block. If you have an account with E*Trade Bank, go to the page where you can order new checks. It will suggest the number range for the new checks. The range lower to this is probably the right one to block.
- Call your insurance company. Call them even if it late in the evening, since they will probably have a 24 hour reporting service that will take down basic information. Have as much detail about the theft and lost items as possible.
- If you lost identity related papers, e.g., driver's license, passport, social security card, passport, etc. consider signing up for credit security monitoring. Pretty much any bank will offer this service. For about 12$/month they will track your credit account with all three credit reporting agencies, and send you mail if any changes occur, e.g., new credit application, change of address or phone number, etc.
- Get all external locks re-keyed. Check your yellow pages or do an online search for 24 hour locksmiths.
- If you lose your U.S. naturalization certificate, which is the proof of your citizenship, here is how to replace it. Fill out form N-565 available at the USCIS website. You will need two photos, copies of your old naturalization certificates, and a copy of police receipt. The fee for this application is $380. In Santa Clara county, apply at the San Jose USCIS office. You will need to take an appointment in advance.
- If you lose your U.S. passports, here is how to replace them. Fill out the DS-11 and DS-64 forms available at the passport office web site. You will need two photos, a proof of citizenship (birth certificate, citizenship or naturalization certificate) and a proof of identity (such as driver's license or state id card) and the forms. Basic application fees are $97 for adults and $82 for kids under 16. If your naturalization certificate is stolen as well, and you do not want to wait that to be replaced, and you have copies of that and the old passport, you can pay $60 extra and get your file researched. They will waive this requirement if you do this. Also, for $60 extra you can get your application expedited. Attach a copy of your trip plan to get extra attention. We got our passports back within a week of application. Apply at a local post office or application center.
- If you lose your social security cards, here is how to replace them. Fill out form SS-5 and submit it at the local social security office. You will need a proof of age (birth certificate, passport, etc.) and a proof of identity (driver's license, state id, passport, etc.), and proof of citizenship (citizenship/naturalization certificate, passport)/immigration status (I-94, green card, etc.). For children, you will need the original immunization record. Birth certificates are not sufficient.
- If you lose certificates of birth in the U.S. is how to replace them. Call your local county recorder office and ask for hours of operation. The Santa Clara county recorder can be reached at (408) 299-5667. You can get a replacement certificate for $17.
- If you lose a marriage certificate (for marriages in the U.S.), the county recorder's office should be able to help with this as well.
- If you lose the deed for your home, the county recorder's office should be able to help with this as well. The number to call in Santa Clara county is (408) 299-5670. You can get a replacement certificate for $10.
- If you lose the title to a car, you can get a replacement at the DMV or at a AAA/CSAA office, if you are a member. In California, fill out the DMV application for a replacement title. The fee for replacement is $17. It is best to schedule an appointment with the DMV.
- If you lose a driver's license or state ID, this gets replaced at the local DMV too. Fill out form DL 44. Again, it is best to schedule an appointment with the DMV.
- Insurance will pay a depreciated value for the property, e.g., cameras, but, if you replace the item with something similar, they will pay the additional cost of replacement. Keep all receipts.
- Insurance will pay for damage to the house as a result of the theft. We got all our locks re keyed and the carpet steam cleaned (either the police or the thieves left a bunch of stains on the carpet) and the insurance will be paying for it.