The SA Insurance Crime Bureau has warned that people should be more diligent and more aware than usual at this time of the year. Picture: Adrian de Kock

 Pretoria - It is people’s favourite time of the year with most switching off from work mode and either embarking on their Christmas holiday, shopping or eating out frequently.

With everyone in a jovial mood, December is synonymous with spending and cheerfulness, but that can quickly turn into a nightmare with criminals preying on and lurking around the unsuspecting.

The SA Insurance Crime Bureau has warned that people should be more diligent and more aware than usual at this time of the year.

“People are either more relaxed or not as vigilant at this time of year, or simply in a rush and not paying enough attention to the risk of criminal activity,” said Hugo van Zyl, the bureau’s chief operating officer.

The bureau warned people to be on the lookout for car jamming, fender bender car hijackings, violent house robberies and airport followings.

With “car jamming”, criminals prey on people preoccupied at shopping centres, remote-jamming their vehicles and helping themselves to the contents left in the vehicles.

“Christmas shopping and holiday luggage could be rich pickings. This is an easy and effective opportunity for criminals to relieve you of your valuables,” said Van Zyl.

“In the “fender bender” type of crime, the criminal will cause an accident doing minimal damage to the target’s vehicle. As the victim exits the vehicle the criminal either uses a weapon to take the keys, or simply gets in and drives off.”

“Therefore be aware of your surroundings if you have a fender bender. Remove your keys from the car if you exit the vehicle. If you are not comfortable with the circumstances of an accident and there are no injuries, drive directly to the nearest police station, or a densely-occupied area to try to ensure your safety as far as possible.”

Regarding household security, do not be lax. Ensure that you follow the same security procedures as you normally would during the year. Be aware if your neighbours are away, so that if you hear activity next door you can react appropriately.

Test your alarms and armed response to be prepared.

The bureau and SAPS have noted a distinct upturn in the number of airport followings over the past few months. This is where spotters at the airport identify a target. They may then follow their target home, rob them at gunpoint or in some cases they will use a blue light to stop their target.

“If you are not comfortable stopping for a blue light, then try to proceed to the nearest police station or draw the attention of other law enforcement officers in the area.

“When entering your residence always be aware of possibly being followed. Even if entering a secure estate environment criminals are not scared to use the minute or two that you stop at security to strike,” said Van Zyl.

“All these crimes rely on the victims being distracted, relaxed and generally not being diligent and aware of the situation,” said Van Zyl.

When you are out, or shopping at a mall with children, remember these tips to keep your holidays happy and safe:

* Hold your children’s hand tightly in the parking lots and malls;

* Never leave your children in the car, even if it’s only for a minute;

* If children get lost in a mall they should go to mall security immediately;

* If they need to use the washroom at the mall, go in with them or stand at the door until they come out.

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Pretoria News