NEWS | Dec. 13, 2011

Keep your personal life secure

By Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston leaders are spreading the word to Airmen and Sailors about how to keep their personal life secure and stressing the importance of taking a few extra precautions during the holiday season.

The holidays are the time of year when many American's enjoy shopping, visiting friends and family members. Many of us also would like to believe the holidays bring out peace on earth and good will toward men. Unfortunately, the holidays are also a prime time for theft.

"My job is to try to make everyone at JB Charleston from service members to family members aware of the dangers that are out there in society these days," said Jeffrey Morey, 628th Air Base Wing base information assurance officer. "I put out information on new scams, what thieves target and how to keep your personal life secure."

"It is important for people to remember to not post personal information on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Displaying pictures of high priced gift items on these sites, or mentioning they are going out of town leaves posters vulnerable for a theft to take place," Mr. Morey continued. "Thieves are not as dumb as some of us may like to think. Most of the thieves who haven't gotten caught yet are taking the time to plan their crimes before striking."

According to JB Charleston 628th Air Base Wing Information Security Specialist Vernon Hayward, "It is important that we all pay attention to detail. For example, on Facebook there is an application available called 'geotagging' which allows people to tag photographs with the location where they were taken. It also allows people to post their own location. But when you are displaying your whereabouts to Facebook friends, you are also letting them know no one is home, leaving your home vulnerable. People need to be mindful on what they are sharing on social networks because the information can be used against them."

Thieves are becoming more sophisticated in other ways as well. Morey shared this story:

A couple had their car broken into while they were at a football game. Thieves stole a garage door opener, some money and a Global Positioning System. When the victims arrived home, they found that their house had been ransacked and almost everything of value had been stolen.

According to Morey, the thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the victim's home. Knowing the owners were at a football game, the thieves were able to take their time cleaning out the house.

"This is definitely something people don't think about," said Morey. "If for some reason you need directions to your home, input a nearby store or gas station into the GPS instead of your address. That way, even if your GPS gets stolen a thief won't be able to find out where you live."

Morey related another story about cell phone safety:

A woman had her handbag stolen. It contained her cell phone, wallet and credit cards. Twenty minutes after the incident she used a pay phone to call her husband to tell him what took place. Her husband replied that he had received a text asking for their bank account PIN and replied to it. When the couple arrived the bank, staff members told them all their money was already withdrawn.The thief used the stolen cell phone to text 'hubby' in the contact list to get the couple's PIN.

"I never thought of this myself and I now no longer have 'home' listed in my phone," Morey explained.

During the holidays, people often carry more cash and often leave shopping bags in their vehicles in plain sight. There are many preemptive steps that can be taken to ensure service members do not become a victim.

Hayward said that when holiday shopping keep the following safety measures in mind:

· Don't park in unlit areas at night.
· Put your shopping bags in your trunk. Don't try to cover items on your seats with a blanket. Better yet, take your packages straight home after a shopping spree and then go back out.
· Don't carry large amounts of cash with you. Otherwise, keep it in your front pocket, not in your purse or wallet.
· Be extra careful when carrying a purse - they are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas. If you must carry one, make sure it has a strap that can go over the shoulder and be held under the arm, making it more difficult for purse snatchers to grab.
· Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home.
· Beware of strangers approaching you. This is the time of year when thieves may try various methods to distract you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.
At home:
· When leaving home for an extended time, have a neighbor or family member watch your house and pick up your newspapers and mail.
· Leave a light on when you leave your home at night or put your lights (including Christmas lights) on an automatic timer.
· Make sure your holiday gifts are not visible through the windows and doors of your home.
· Never announce that you are away from home on outgoing messages left on your answering machine or voice mail. Simply say you are unable to get answer the phone at the time.