Police offer tips to protect presents, identity following the holiday season

STUART, Fla. -- It's the final Christmas countdown.

Police are hoping to remind you to remain watchful of thieves trying to put your last minute presents under their tree, or steal your identity when all of the presents are unwrapped.

Sometimes the best presents can come in little boxes. "I'm hoping for a Kindle," Electronic typically top off Kathy Ahern's list. "One year we got the T.V."

But those are also the presents that typically attract thieves during the holiday season.

"What we do see at Christmas time are a lot of opportunists," Sgt. Martin Jacobson said with the Stuart Police Department.

Jacobson says thieves won't always break into cars and homes to get what they want. Sometimes they don't have to go past your doorstep.

"Let your neighbors know if you're expecting a package to be on the lookout."

Thieves can follow delivery drivers looking to take a present. But even empty boxes along the curb are valuable to an identity thief.

"Don't take all those nice boxes from all those presents and set them out by the curb because now everybody knows what's inside your house," Jacobson said.

They know what's inside, but also more about you if you leave packaging scraps on the curb. That includes your name, your address and at times your phone number.

"People will look through the trash and find out who you are," Jacobson said.

Jacobson says before tossing wrappers and packages, cut them up. Focus on serial numbers, labels that identify the gift, or any identifying factors.

Ahern says that's something she's never done before. "I just throw them away without really thinking about it."

But she says this year she will to keep thieves from causing some holiday heart break.

Jacobson says if you are still expecting last minute deliveries but can't be home when they're dropped off, you can ask the post office to hold a package for you to pick up, or ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye out for you.

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