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What to Do When Danger Comes Knocking

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On Black Friday this year, Americans spent a record $5 billion in just 24 hours — a nearly 17% increase from the previous year.

While online shopping surely makes life a little easier, there is a threat most people don’t consider…

On Nov. 22, 2016, Lawrence Berry was at his home in Houston, Texas, with his wife and two daughters when he heard a knock at the door around 8:40 p.m. Through the door, Mr. Berry saw a UPS driver, who called out that he needed a signature for a package he was to deliver.

As Mr. Berry opened the front door, the “deliveryman” forced his way inside the home, quickly followed by three more men, all of whom were carrying guns.

Once inside the home, the intruders beat Mr. Berry. During the struggle, one of the criminals fired his gun, but luckily, no one was hit. Then the suspects quickly raided the Berrys’ home, stealing several pieces of jewelry as well as some collectable firearms.

Thankfully, Mr. Berry survived the home invasion, although he was treated for a fractured skull that required 28 staples to the back of his head.

Rear view of a delivery man with packages knocking at door

Similarly, about a month ago police reported that a woman in the West Town neighborhood of Chicago had two men wearing reflective vests approach her on her doorstep.

One of the men tried to hand her a package. While she was distracted, the two men pushed her inside and beat her about the face. One of the men held her at gunpoint while the other ransacked her apartment looking for money.

These are just two examples of this type of scam. And while it doesn’t happen often, it’s still something you should watch out for — especially this time of year.

Since I know many of you will be receiving packages from online retailers or family members over the next several days, here are three safety tips to keep in mind when a delivery person comes knocking. Be sure to share them with every member of your household.

  1. Don’t require a signature — I realize a lot of people request a signature upon delivery to ensure the package isn’t just left outside. The problem with that is you have to interact with a delivery person for every package you receive.If you don’t require a signature, they can just leave the package on your doorstep for you to retrieve once they are gone. This way, you’ll never have to worry about answering the door for a complete stranger.
  2. Monitor the tracking — With technology these days, major delivery companies are able to give accurate tracking information and frequent updates. If you are expecting a delivery, you can track it online and see the precise date (and sometimes the exact time) your package should arrive.Obviously, if you’re receiving a ton of packages from relatives, you won’t always know what’s coming. If an unexpected package shows up, talk to the delivery person through the door. Ask them who the package is from to verify if it is indeed from a friend or relative.
  3. Pick up at a retail location — Most delivery companies have retail locations all over the U.S. — for example, UPS has The UPS Store and FedEx has FedEx Office. You can request to have your package delivered to a retail location near you.Then you can pick up the package at your convenience without the risk that comes with having a stranger come to your front door. By picking up your packages at the store, you also won’t have to worry about them being stolen while sitting on your porch.

With the holidays getting ever nearer, delivery companies will be working longer hours, often delivering late into the night. Many companies offer regular delivery until 8 p.m. —or later — due to the high shipping demand.

When shopping online, be sure to keep these safety tips in mind. They could prevent you from being tricked by a crafty criminal posing as a delivery person. And like I always say, trust your gut.

If something doesn’t quite seem right, don’t open the door. It’s perfectly acceptable to talk to the delivery person through the door to determine if the drop-off is legitimate. Ask questions like, “Who is the sender?” and “Who is it addressed to?”

A little bit of sleuthing goes a long way, especially as more and more criminals are finding sneaky ways to get into the holiday spirit — and your home.

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