When it comes to wallets and purses, size does matter. At least it does for those trying to protect their identities, credit cards and bank accounts from criminals.
Therefore, local bank executives and law enforcement officers are recommending women make the switch to a man’s wallet, as a trend in snatching women’s wallets from purses hit Naples this past month. Usually, the victim does not realize the wallet is missing from her purse until she returns home.
The top three mistakes women make with their purses, according to Collier County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ray Erickson, are leaving purses behind in a car, leaving purses in a shopping cart, or leaving a purse open and not staying near it.
“People should ask themselves, how many credit cards do I have in my wallet, even if it is a man’s wallet. They should know what is in their wallet in order to report it missing,” said Erickson during a break from a seminar in landscaping business crime prevention at the Golden Gate Community Center.
Choosing to dump an old chunky wallet for a smaller streamlined version may be tough for some, but the benefits outweigh the chances of a thief snatching every inch of one’s identity. While traveling, Erickson also recommends that couples traveling together should each carry one different form of credit card from their spouse.
“If you lose a credit card, or one doesn’t work, you will have the other one. As seasonal residents travel here to Naples, they should use the cards they have for traveling. With just two cards for traveling, the cards are put away when they arrive from Point A to Point B. So when they arrive to their winter home, the cards are put away to keep track of usage,” Erickson said.
Personal and business banking managers with Regions Bank in the Crossroads Plaza, and Fifth Third Bank in the Carillon Plaza, agreed with Erickson’s wallet and credit card saving strategies. They also said unique protections on personal and business debit cards can be activated, along with certain credit card fraud protections, in case a wallet is stolen.
Also, banking managers recommend keeping a photocopy of the credit card in a locked safe, while traveling, as another option to recover lost information and numbers in case of a theft. Businesses can also protect assets by controlling how checks are distributed to employees, as businesses can be at risk for photocopying checks and forged signatures.
“It’s also about situational awareness,” said Lee VanGelder, a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Bureau, regarding how people should stay alert, know surroundings, when entering a parking lot, and avoid distractions such as texting on their cell phone. “With clocks set back soon, plan ahead, and park in well lit areas, so when you return to your car in the dark, you’ll be safe.”
Deputies encourage residents to call immediately if they become a victim of a wallet or purse snatching incident.
“If people don’t call us and tell us what is going on, then we don’t know about it,” VanGelder said. “Try to get as much information as possible, and a description of the vehicle, and anyone inside of the vehicle to provide to 911 dispatchers.”
Here are some tips from the Sheriff’s Office to avoid becoming a crime victim:
• Don’t carry or flash large amounts of money.
• Don’t walk alone at night, or in an unfamiliar area.
• Park your car near a streetlight, or in a well-lit area.
• Lock doors, even when driving.
• Hold your keys when you walk to your car. They can be used as a weapon if someone tries to hurt you.
• Your life is more valuable than your property. If someone wants to rob you, give them what they want.
• Keep credit card information in a safe spot in case your cards are stolen.
• Never put your purse in front of the shopping cart.
• Be aware of your surroundings.
If you see anything suspicious, contact the Sheriff’s Office at (239) 252-9300 or call 911 if it is an emergency.