Announcer: [00:01] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Jody Hanson: [00:14] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your guest host, Jody Hanson. Like Theresa, I'm a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. The holiday season is a busy time for just about everyone unfortunately. This includes thieves, so today we're discussing how to keep you, your family, your home and other property all safe. We've got two great Johnson County experts today who will give us some advice. First step is Claire Canaan. She's with the Johnson County Sheriff's office. Claire, thanks for being here.
Claire Canaan: [00:44] Thank you for having me.
Jody Hanson: [00:45] Our other subject matter expert is Emilie Burdette with the Johnson County District Attorney's office. Thanks for joining us.
Emilie Burdette: [00:50] It's great to be here.
Jody Hanson: [00:52] First off, sort of an obvious question, but why is there a risk of theft around the holiday season?
Emilie Burdette: [00:57] Well, really the simple answer is just there's so much more opportunity for theft during this time of year. Spending is ratcheted up unlike any other time of year during the holidays. And that is a lot of folks making a lot of purchases in a short amount of time and often they're doing it in a big hurry and we all have long lists. We all have a lot of things to do during this time of year and unfortunately that means maybe we aren't quite as careful as we would be during other times of the year. So really there's just so much more opportunity for fraudsters to find vulnerabilities and to exploit them for their own benefit. They really just prey on that fact that there's so many purchases and that it's a very busy time of year.
Jody Hanson: [01:36] So many people are doing their shopping online these days to avoid crowds or to have the convenience of having items delivered directly to their door. Emilie, can you talk about some of the risks of online shopping?
Emilie Burdette: [01:48] You know, I was just reading a stat that I think is really staggering. 75% of Americans are reported to do at least half of their holiday shopping online this holiday season. And that just creates a tremendous opportunity for risk. Really unlike physical shopping at a brick and mortar store where you think you really know where you're at, you can look at the items, you can pick them up, you can turn them over, know what you're getting, you're dealing with human beings, you're paying, making a one point of purchase and you're walking out with your item that's so unlike online shopping where you're hoping you're at the right website, you're hoping you're at a legitimate business. You're hoping the item that you're going to purchase is what you really want, that it's not damaged. You're hoping you're going to get it in the correct timeframe, that the shipping is going to be what's representative and you're paying for it up front with nothing in your hand. So there's just so much space between purchase and receiving the item. And that's a huge gap that you don't get when you're making purchases in person. So some of the most common risks that we see are spoofed websites. And those are going to show up in phishing emails or in pop up ads. And it's going to be a website that looks legitimate. It will, like it's coming from an actual retailer, but there's something a little off in that in that URL, it's actually going to direct you to a scam website or to a vulnerable opportunity where somebody is going to try to get your money from you. So one of the things we really caution people about is to not click on links in emails to not click on popup ads. And if you know that there's a trusted online retailer you want to make a purchase from, go to their website independently, type it in yourself, make sure that you're doing your homework and you're at a really legitimate business.
Emilie Burdette: [03:30] And then we see a lot of non-delivery scams, which really sort of result from these scam websites where people are paying for items that they're just simply never receiving. They actually didn't purchase a real item because it's a fraudster on the other end of that transaction. Just stealing the money. And then one of the other things we see a lot of is sort of, again, because it's a busy time of year and there's so many purchases being made that consumers are less likely to read the fine print during this time of year. They're less likely to read terms and conditions to understand what a return policy might be to look at shipping expenses, shipping times. So there's a lot of fraud that happens in the fine print. That really just requires folks to take a close look at what purchases they're making.
Jody Hanson: [04:12] So you would recommend that consumers really pay attention to what they're doing, where they're clicking, what they're reading. What if someone does make a purchase that never arrives? Is there anything you would suggest?
Emilie Burdette: [04:19] Sure. One of the best ways to protect yourself in that situation is to have paid with a credit card. So doing anything that requires a debit card or a wire transfer or a prepaid card is gonna leave you really susceptible. Because there's no real way to track those funds or reclaim those friends. If you've been a victim of fraud, paying with a credit card or going through a secure site like a PayPal or another one of those platforms will give you a remedy so that you can at least file a dispute with your credit card company. That money hasn't actually left your account yet. And there's some ways to trace it and hopefully maybe get some relief.
Jody Hanson: [05:02] That's really good information. So Claire, let's say somebody does make a purchase and it arrives on their porch, like it's supposed to. We hear so much about porch pirates these days. I know the Sheriff's office is working with homeowners who have doorbells equipped with cameras. Can you talk a little bit about that program?
Claire Canaan: [05:18] Yeah. and like, you know, like Emilie was saying, you know, people are more and more shopping online for things that's convenient. It shows up on your doorstep while you're at work, you get home, you got your gifts there. But there's people that drive around and are looking for those opportunities. They don't like to work hard for, for the things that they're stealing. Just to be very blunt about it. Criminals don't want to work hard. So if they're driving by and they see that opportunity of packages on a doorstep, it's very easy for them to run up, grab the packages and then be gone. We do, the Sheriff's office does have an agreement with ring doorbell. It's called the neighbors app. You don't have to have a ring doorbell to be a part of this app. And
Claire Canaan: [05:58] What it does, it allows you and your neighbors to communicate, share videos from your doorbells from the ones in the neighbors that do have that. It kind of lets you know who has them in the area. They can share the video. If they experience a theft, you can share it to that app and you'll get a notification from, hey, my neighbor shared this video, here's the suspect vehicle, here's the images of the individuals who are going around the neighborhood, maybe picking up packages. And like I said, you don't have to own a ring doorbell to be on this app. From the law enforcement perspective, we don't have access to the neighbors videos. So we can't just go in and get video. But what we can do is we can go in and put in a request, basically like a post to a certain area and say, Hey, we're seeing an increase in porch thefts in this kind of area. We can highlight that area, reach out to the neighbors and the citizens that live there and say, do you have any videos from this time period to this time period? If you do, please send them to us so we can ask for citizens to send us that information to help with our investigations. That's kind of the law enforcement side of it. But just even as a community member, the positives of having that app you can kind of stay up to date on what's...stay alert of what's going on in your neighborhood. If there is an increase of porch thefts going on, maybe setting up some other preventative measures to not become a victim.
Jody Hanson: [07:23] So having that app sounds like a great way to protect yourself. What are some other ones? What are some tips for our listeners when it comes to package delivery? What can they do to minimize the thefts and what should they do if they discover something has been stolen?
Claire Canaan: [07:34] Yeah. like I said, sharing the videos, if you experienced that, share that video with your neighbors saying, this is what I'm seeing. To kind of alert them and make sure that they're taking the necessary precautions to not become victims as well. If you are getting packages delivered, if you know you have a neighbor that stays home during the day or will be home having them see if they'll pick up the package for you and vice versa, offering to pick up your neighbor's packages. Amazon has these great drop boxes now. I believe, you know, local stores and stuff. You can look on Amazon to see where they're located. And you can make that request to have your Amazon packages actually delivered to these locked boxes in retailers and stuff like that so that you go and you pick up from there so they're not sitting on your porch. Doing that and then kind of staying alert to your own videos or what's going on in your neighborhood to protect yourselves.
Jody Hanson: [08:24] Another risk this time of year is carrying a lot of cash and keeping your purchases in your vehicle. Is there a greater risk right now of personnel chasing or car break ins?
Claire Canaan: [08:33] Maybe we see it more often during the holidays because like Emily said earlier, people are going out and they're buying in bulk. They're going and doing all their shopping. They're going to the local mall and getting all their purchases going out to their car, putting it in there so they're not carrying bags upon bags. And I think criminals realize that the opportunity is greater during this time of year. You know, you're not going to have work as hard. Like I said earlier, they don't want to work hard for what they're doing. So yeah, they're going to be roaming the parking lots and they're going to be looking for those easy targets. They're going to look saying, Hey, they have a bunch of shopping bags in their backseat. Let me check the doors and it's unlocked. Cool. You know, I'll go in there and I done my Christmas shopping, however illegally, you know. But so I think there is that greater risk and there are people walking around with larger amounts of cash. So I think yeah, maybe there is a greater risk. I don't know if Emilie, you can kind of speak more to, to that, but I know we see it a lot. We try to, you know, educate people about how to store their purchases or how to keep themselves safe more during these times a year.
Emilie Burdette: [09:35] I just echo that it's a really important time of year to be a little more alert and a little more on guard. Holiday season is a wonderful time and we all have so many happy things going on. It's fun to be at the mall. It's fun to be in that holiday environment, but it's a little easier sometimes to let our guard down. We're keeping track of multiple purchases, multiple thoughts in our heads and really sometimes get wrapped up not in a bad way in the holiday season, but we let our guards down a little bit. So just being smart, being a little more aware and making sure you're taking all those extra precautions will just help you keep you safe during this time of year.
Jody Hanson: [10:08] Something I've noticed in my mailbox these past few weeks is I'm getting a lot more asks for charitable donations, whether it's holiday-related or end of the year related. So I would think the more requests that are out there, there's more potential for scams. Emily, can you talk a little bit about that?
Emilie Burdette: [10:27] Unfortunately, that's exactly correct. During the holiday season, many people generously donate to charities. And coupled with the end of the year and tax season that sort of sends those numbers upward and, and it's, you know, always want to encourage people to contribute generously but to just do it and as smart and educated fashion. So unfortunately as we were speaking about some of the spoofs websites and the phishing emails and pop up ads going along with merchants, we see those same things related to charities. So the safest bet is to make a decision about what charity that you want to make a donation to sort of independent about what might be popping up in your, your inbox and then go seek that charity out on your own. Make sure that you're making contact with them directly that you're contributing in a safe and secure way. And if you have any questions, there's an excellent resource through the state of Kansas. It's called Kansas Charity Check. They have a very user friendly website. It's kscharitycheck.org, and you can go in there and search out any charity that's registered in Kansas. And they will tell you a lot about their information how much money that they actually contribute to the cause. And you can get a lot of information that way.
Jody Hanson: [11:41] The final item to talk about is social media. People seem to want to rush to post pictures from family gatherings, but that might not be always a great idea. Right. Especially if your family gathering is out of town. Claire, can you talk about that a little?
Claire Canaan: [11:53] Yeah. And we talk about this throughout the year too. People go on vacations, but especially during the holiday seasons from Thanksgiving all the way through the New Year they will get on social media and posting that they're out of town. Not everything they post is private. They may not have the security settings on their social media sites to where it's, you know, just for friends and family, it could be public. And you know, people are going to get on there and look at that. And it's not hard sometimes to track down where you're located just based on other clues on those websites. And so kind of being aware of what you're posting, being aware of who you're sharing that information with. And when you're posting it, if it's something that you don't need to post, right, then wait until you know you're back home and you're letting people know you can share your stuff then.
Claire Canaan: [12:37] But something that the Sheriff's office does offer is House Watch we offer at the Sheriff's office opposite for our unincorporated Johnson County residents as well as the residents in DeSoto and Edgerton. I know some other city agencies also offer a similar service. And so if you don't live in one of the areas that the Sheriff's office patrols, we always encourage you to reach out to your local jurisdiction and all you have to do, you call our non-emergency dispatch number. Let them know that you would like to schedule a house watch or extra patrol depending on what the need is. And what we do is as time permits as call load permits, we will have a deputy kind of periodically driving by your residence to check it and make sure there's nothing suspicious going on. Some of the information we ask is, you know, are you, are there any lights that are to be left on? What cars are staying in the driveway? Do you have people coming by to check your residence? So if we drive by and we see a suspicious vehicle, we can look in those notes and say, Oh no, this looks like the person that is supposed to be here checking the home. Are there animals? Is there we also get information on your alarm company? Do you have an alarm company for your home? You know, so if we do come by and we noticed something suspicious, we can notify them as well or they can contact us and we can check the legitimacy of them if they do contact us for any kind of alarms. So it's a free service. It's great. It's something that, you know, we're happy to offer and we've offered it for years and it's not just for during the holidays. So when people go on their summer vacations, it's also something that they can reach out and kind of get that little extra peace of mind while they're out of town that their property is being protected.
Jody Hanson: [14:11] You both have been given us some great ideas and advice and information. Is there, are there any other important tips for residents during the holiday season and also if you can each let us know where people can get more information.
Emilie Burdette: [14:22] Sure. One of the smartest things folks can do during this time of year is to just set a budget, make a list, make some decisions about what purchases you really want to make for your loved ones and friends and then find reputable places to shop. If you can shop locally, shop here within Johnson County. There's so many wonderful retailers here. And you can walk out with your purchases and know you've made a really smart gifting decision. And then we would also just encourage who has any further questions or would like some additional information to contact the Johnson County District Attorney's office. We do have a consumer protection division where we take calls on our hotline. That number is (913) 715-3003 and we'd be happy to speak with you about any concerns you have or just share some more tips.
Claire Canaan: [15:13] Yeah, and I'm kind of echoing what Emily said this whole time is being smart, being aware when you're out shopping, if you are online shopping, which inevitably everybody is going to be doing for the most part. Kind of following the tips that we set forth before is you know, keeping your neighbors aware of what's going on. Being alert about what is going on in your neighborhood as well. If you need to set up a different location to have your packages dropped off, do that. If you do see anything suspicious, don't hesitate to call the Sheriff's office or your local jurisdiction. Our non-emergency police dispatch number is (913) 782-0720. You can always call 911 as well if there's an emergency. But yeah, protecting yourself first and foremost. You know, keeping your purchases, you know, in the trunk or with you not becoming an easy target. We want you to protect yourself and we want people to have a wonderful holiday season, not riddled with, you know, becoming a victim of some kind of theft. So
Jody Hanson: [16:13] Well I think you both have shared some very important information and resources that are going to help people have a very safe holiday this season. So thanks to both of you. Look for links and more information on how to prevent crime on jocogov.org. Thanks for listening.
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