How to avoid falling victim to porch pirates and online scammers

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) The holidays are right around the corners and experts warn that now is the time to make sure you're protected from falling victim to online scams and porch pirates.

“Think about it ahead of time, make plans, make sure if you’re sending a package to somebody they know it’s coming so that they can track it and know when it’s going to be there so it’s not sitting too long on their porch,” Bob Harmon, of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office, says.

Harmon says if you can find alternatives to having a package left on your doorstep you eliminate the risk of a porch pirate terrorizing your home.

“Mail packages to your office, mail them to a PO Box and as we always like to say during the holidays get to know your neighbors," Harmon says. "If you have a neighbor you are good friends with that you can trust as you’re tracking your package and these days it’s really easy to track packages.”

Ring doorbells and other surveillance systems can be helpful in deterring thieves or catching them on camera, but Harmon says people need to remember to always report any incidents to law enforcement.

“One of the things we’ve seen with this advanced technology is people are using the technology and sometimes sharing that information on social media or with neighbors but they’re not always reporting it to law enforcement and now that’s an important component so if there’s a suspicious character at your house or your neighbors or they’re chatting about stolen packages or a home burglary or home break in, you need to make sure that you include law enforcement in that conversation so we can respond and take steps as well,” he says.

Harmon warns that online scammers will also be out in full force so be aware when you're online shopping.

“Whether it’s a missed jury duty, or a warrant or to get a grandchild out of jail, anything along that line they’re asking you to call in those numbers over the phone, definitely a red flag,” Harmon says.

One of the biggest giveaways is if you are contacted first by someone claiming you won a prize or they need you to give them money.

“Whenever you are contacted by someone you do not know the red flags should automatically go up and as the old saying goes when something is too good to be true, it probably is and you need to be aware of that,” he says.

Harmon also warns against charity scammers and you can check credible sources like the Better Business Bureau to make sure a business or a charity organization is legitimate.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019