By Mary Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Dec. 11, 2019: During this joyous time of the year, when our shopping goes into overdrive, sadly, we have to be mindful that there are thieves who will use our purchasing power as an opportunity to steal. Package thieves, in particular, are hard at work during the holiday season. The pickings are ripe when you can drive through a neighborhood and see packages sitting on front porches that won’t be touched for hours. To avoid this scenario, there are alternatives when gifts need to be shipped to you.
Package Delivery Safety
Perhaps send them to your office, though, due to the increased volume of packages, many businesses are no longer receptive to the idea of your personal purchases being delivered to your place of business. As a result, Amazon has over 100 “hub lockers” in Manhattan alone that are secure delivery sites.
Request re-route or re-delivery. You can request a package be held at the delivery facility or rerouted to another location or delivered on another day if you know your home will be unattended on the projected delivery date.
Call UPS or FedEx once you have a tracking number and have them hold the package at their facility for pick up later.
Ask a neighbor who may be at home more often than you are to receive your packages.
Purchase a new mailbox with secured access.
Doorbell video cameras have also proven to be a great deterrent. As a point of fact, 100,000 of these were sold nationwide in 2015 vs. 1.2 million sold so far this year.
In a recent article on the subject in the New York Times, it was noted that over 90,000 packages a day are stolen or disappear without explanation in New York City. This is an increase of approximately 20% just from four years ago, and the Times estimated that about 15% of all deliveries nationwide in urban areas fail to reach customers.
It is estimated that one in five citizens has had a package stolen, and the FBI estimates the number to be much higher as people often seek reimbursement from the online retailer or credit card company and never report to police departments.
According to the IRS, more than 90% of all data thefts begin with email phishing scams. The most common way to steal identities is simply by asking for them. The favorite tactic is a phishing email baiting users into opening them by posing as trusted companies such as a bank, a favorite retailer, or even a tax professional. They usually tell an urgent story such as there’s a problem with your account or your order, and then their message instructs you to open an embedded link or download an attachment.
Using strong passwords and keeping them secure are critical steps to preventing thieves from stealing identities, money, or even information to file a fraudulent tax return. In recent years, cyber security experts’ recommendation on what constitutes a strong password has changed. They now suggest people use phrases that are easy to remember, rather than random letters, characters, and numbers that cannot be readily recalled. For example, experts previously suggested PXro 30) as a strong password type sequence but now suggest longer phrases such as “something you can remember @30”. By using a memorable phrase, users don’t have to write down their password and expose it to additional risk. Also, people may be more willing to use stronger, longer passwords if it’s a phrase rather than random characters that are harder to remember. The experts recommend using a minimum of eight characters, but even longer is better and use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
General Purchasing Scams
As a rule, do not pay for items or donate via a wire transfer, prepaid card, or even bank to bank account transfer.
The best chance of recovering stolen money is by using a credit card. Never click on a link from an email, instead use the web browser to go directly to the organization or retailers’ website. Be wary of anyone making demands by email or phone and requesting to be sent prepaid gift cards. Scammers may try to pose as your employer, friend, family member, or a local charity. This actually happened to me this week at Village Hall. Someone set up an email account with my name as the header since they didn’t know any of my personal information but just my name. Then they most likely visited the Village website and sent emails to Village employees telling them I needed them to purchase gift cards for me for holiday gifts to staff. There was no hacking. Nobody had my password. They simply chose to pose as me and took advantage of public emails on a government website. Our PD is currently trying to identify the IP address via a subpoena. We have since learned that this happened to several other municipalities in the same time frame. Step two was then asking the receiver of my request to send their personal phone number. It was only at this juncture when staffers realized it was a fraud as I have all of their numbers. The FBI estimates a collective loss of more than $184 million last year as a result of scams such as the one I described above.
Con Edison Scams
Especially at this time of potential power outages due to ice and snow and increased heating needs, scammers zero in on the power companies. If someone knocks on your door claiming to be from Con Edison, insist on seeing ID and then call 1-800-752-6633 for verification. Con Edison does not charge for smart meter installation. If you’re asked for a smart meter deposit, do not pay and call the above number. Con Edison does not demand or accept payments in gift cards or cryptocurrency. Con Edison payments can only be made through three websites, coned.com, webpayments.billmatrix.com/ConEdResidential and conEd.com/GuestPayment
Sadly, the name ConEd can even show up on your phone’s caller ID, even if a scam call.
In reference to all the above scams, if it just doesn’t feel right, call our Police Desk as they are often well aware of the scams in the area and can assist you in taking action.
Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.