Authorities warn of credit card skimming devices, home burglaries during Fourth of July holiday
WASHINGTON - Holidays like the Fourth of July bring out thousands of revelers. But they also bring out thieves looking to target anyone left vulnerable.
The Secret Service is warning holiday travelers to be on the lookout for skimmers. Meanwhile, police are warning homeowners about burglars waiting to get into your home as you head out of town.
Almost 45 million people are expected to fill up on gasoline before heading out of town. Fraudsters see that as a major payday - adding credit card skimmers where they can. That is why the Secret Service is ramping up their efforts this holiday.
Secret Service agents are inspecting pumps in 21 states to remove these hidden, illegal skimming devices that steal your credit card information. Ahead of the busy Memorial Day holiday earlier this year, Secret Service agents found 70 skimming devices.
To guarantee you won't be a victim, the agency is advising customers you pay inside.
Drivers are not the only ones vulnerable tough. Independence Day is also open season on homeowners.
"Criminals are going to take advantage of being gone," explained Montgomery County Police Officer Rick Goodale. "They will scope out neighborhoods and look to see if they can easily identify residents who may be gone for a long weekend and try and target those homes for burglaries."
Whether you are leaving home for a few days or just a few hours, be careful what you post online.
"Criminals monitor social media just like everyone else does," added Goodale. "People don't realize how much information they put out there that can ultimately be used against them."
Travelers often forget the little things like locking all windows and side or garage doors.
Have a pet? That doggie door could be a problem too.
"There are people out there small enough that can climb through these pet doors and then let other people into the home once they get inside," Goodale said.
He also recommends that you get to know your neighbors.
"Let them know what your plans are and if they are going to be home, have them keep an eye on your house," said Goodale. "Make sure you have someone checking your mail or stop your mail because burglars will look to see if there is mail piling up in a mailbox. That is a pretty good indication someone is not home."
Putting your lights on a timer can also help. For the tech savvy, a "smart doorbell" lets you see and even talk to whoever is at the door. Security experts also recommend a home security app to go along with your security system. Make sure you do your research to find the right one for you.
While travelers have plenty to be careful of, even people watching the fireworks near their home should lock up. While people have their eyes to the skies for the fireworks show, burglars could be pulling a show of their own. On average, it takes criminals less than a minute to get into a home and they are usually out in less than five minutes.