This time of year allows for people to fall victim to scams, both online and in person. Here are ways to avoid them.
Continuing our series on seasonal risk management issues, today we take look at some of the financial scams and other crimes that often have an effect on physicians at year-end.
We’ve provided a series of introductions to non-malpractice asset protection issues over the last two months. Now that you are well educated about issues like office holiday party liability and confident that your practice is well protected against invoice fraud and other business related exposures, let’s talk about you and your family.
Americans are on a national buying spree and as such we have more packages and valuables in our cars. We are getting more packages delivered to our homes and offices and may not always be using the best practices possible to remove opportunity and temptation and make ourselves less attractive targets.
Doing Your Shopping Online?
Great, you got the deals and skipped the crowds, now you just actually have to get the packages. Criminals know that the mail (including UPS, FedEx and etc.) is exceptionally valuable at this time of year, loaded with everything from new iPads and laptops to checks, gift cards, and even envelopes full of cash. Local news reports are full of surveillance footage of brazen package thieves running up front doors with security cameras and snatching packages, so think about the following issues if you are sending or receiving gifts.
Use Delivery Signatures, Insurance, and Tracking Numbers
All of these services are great safeguards that have a minimal, if not insignificant cost, compared to having to file insurance claims, police reports, and scramble to replace the items your ordered. Yes, missing a delivery may mean a second attempt or a trip to the post office, but both are faster than dealing with stolen, or even lost or damaged package, both of which are more likely during this high volume delivery season. Packages outside your door are not just at risk of being stolen but also indicate that no one is at home, inviting burglary.
Lock Your Car and Pay Attention to What’s Inside
Leaving shopping bags and packages visible while you run in and out of malls and stores also provides opportunity. When possible keep your packages locked in your trunk and never leave briefcases, backpacks, electronics cases, etc. visible, even in high traffic parking areas. Lots of turn over means no one is paying attention to who’s pulling in and out or walking between cars, doing their own “shopping”.
Pay Attention to Your Property and Surroundings
Keep close track of your packages and check your bags at each purchase to make sure that you got your credit card back and that what you paid for is both in the bag and that all the bags make it back to the car with you (this means know how many you had). Many skilled thieves work inside nice and crowded malls and stores where people are easily distracted and have their arms full and guard down. This goes for crowded restaurants or the food court as well, especially if you are engrossed in conversation, chasing the kids down or more likely, staring at your phone. One female executive I know recently had a very expensive designer bag and all her credit cards and ID, etc. stolen off the back of her chair in a crowded sushi restaurant after taking her iPhone out of it to check her email. When she hit “reply” she turned to put her phone back and her purse was gone and no one in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd saw a thing.
It’s also important to have a good level of situational awareness when walking to and from your vehicle. We’ve all seen (or been) the distracted shopper with an armload of packages walking to their car while on their cell phone and digging for their keys. They are good and easily surprised targets for thieves who may want the packages, a purse or the car itself. Do one thing at a time and never hesitate to wait, call security or simply pick a different, closer, better lit spot to park if you have any doubts about your surrounding or the other people in them. Finally, avoid taking your wallet out or opening your purse to give to panhandlers. I appreciate the spirit, but it’s a tempting target that puts you in a tough position, give it to the bell ringer instead.