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It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also a time when criminals are most active.

Security experts are, therefore, warning Jamaicans to be cautious when they are conducting business and traversing public places during the festive season.

Hopeton Thomas, security manager at JN Bank, advises that persons should be aware of their surroundings at all times.

“Put yourself in a position where it’s difficult to surprise you,” he advised.  “This is one of the most important things you can do, to ensure your personal safety, particularly, when you are making cash transactions,” he advised.

Mr Thomas also cautions persons to be aware of “shoulder surfing,”’ when standing in line in crowded supermarkets and stores.

“Shoulder surfers are people who will get access to your personal information, such as your PINs and passwords, by looking over your shoulder while standing behind you in a line. Therefore, I always advise persons, do not access your online banking information on your phone, or any other electronic device openly,” he stated.  

“Therefore, when you’re in the supermarket, or anywhere else, if you must transfer money or check your balances, do so in a secured spot prior to joining the line. In addition, always protect your PIN by covering the keypad, as you complete your transaction.”

In addition, Mr Thomas cautions shoppers that as they traverse the streets, they should be aware of bike robbers, who frequent several hotspots throughout the Corporate Area.

In what he describes as a growing trend, Mr Thomas explained that robbers on motorcycles are deliberately crashing their bikes into motor cars and pedestrians in an attempt rob them.

“Keep your valuables, such as your handbags, on the side away from traffic. And, if you must speak on your cell phone while on the street, keep the phone away from traffic.”

Security expert, Robert Finzi-Smith, further advised shoppers to avoid leaving valuable items on their car seats, or areas inside the car where they are visible to passers-by.

“Also, when shopping, use your debit and credit card where possible, so as to avoid walking around with lots of cash. If you must use cash, separate your money early, so that you are not forced to be counting money in full view of everyone,” he advised.

Mr Finzi-Smith provided additional counsel for persons using ATMs, noting that they should always observe their surroundings prior to using the machine.  

“If the machine is obstructed from view or poorly lit, visit another ATM. Lock the door and always shield the screen and keyboard, so that anyone waiting to use the ATM cannot see as you enter your PIN, or transaction amount,” he advised.

He noted that persons should also secure their cash and card before exiting the ATM.

“You would be surprised to know that there are still persons who count their cash after they move away from the ATM, and are in full view of everyone waiting outside. That is a no-no,” he warned.

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