By: Corey English

Over the weekend, my wife and her friend Brenda got a refresher course on some basic security lessons. With the holiday season here and more people coming and going, a few overlooked, routine decisions, created a nightmare out of an evening out with a friend.

It started when the women parked their car near their restaurant. It was a busy day and they had been here numerous times- they felt comfortable with the area and the people. Like many of us, my wife’s friend left her cellphone plugged into her car as she went to place her order. “It’ll be quick,” she thought, and slightly hid the phone out of sight. Now this wasn’t just an ordinary cellphone, this was an accessorized phone in a wallet case; so, her ID, credit cards, debit cards and house keys, were all attached.

While at the restaurant, the friend decided to go back for her phone and hits the unlock button on her clicker. Getting caught up in conversation, she delays the walk to her car by a few minutes. When she finally arrives, it’s gone. No sign of a break in and no sign of her phone. In a matter of minutes-her phone, cards, keys and intimate details of her life were gone and in the hands of a stranger.

The women were able to track the phone using the Find My iPhone app and saw that the thieves were at a nearby mall. Looks like they began using all the cards in the wallet for an impromptu shopping spree. The women quickly showed up to the mall, only to realize the thieves had moved on to another location. Feeling defeated and that the likelihood of recovering the stolen items was low, the women called the cops and settled on taking corrective action instead. The friend began to call the bank to cancel the cards, schedule the DMV appointment for the ID replacement and began preparing to change her house locks. Throughout this process, the women continued to track the phone and noticed something disturbing: the thieves were heading to Brenda’s house. The ID had her address listed and the keys were already in the wallet. In panic, the women rushed toward the house and flagged police cars on the way for help. They barreled the LA streets and upon arrival, they noticed the gate was unlocked- the thieves already were inside. Police made their way in and arrested the criminals immediately. Unfortunately, Brenda couldn’t recover all her stolen belongings, but her quick thinking and pursuit prevented any further loss.

This was quite an evening, and honestly, quite avoidable. If Brenda had taken her valuables out of her car, if she had waited until she got to her car to unlock the door, scanned her surroundings and not have gotten distracted for a few meaningful minutes, no car chase or break in would have happened.

It’s important to remind ourselves of the little things sometimes. It won’t always be the mastermind thief orchestrating a break in, Sometimes, it will just be a stranger in passing- deciding to take a small opportunity that turns your life upside down.

Tips to Protect Yourself and Prevent Losing Valuables:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings.
  2. Scan for people watching from a distance/in parked vehicles.
  3. Be ready to open your car door when entering.
  4. Keep your vehicle in eyesight when opening it remotely.
  5. Minimize your losses by not keeping all your valuables in one place (ex: wallet + cellphone)
  6. Don’t leave any valuables visible.
  7. Reduce carrying items that may compromise your financial and personal security. (ex: social security card, checkbook, credit cards, written passwords/PINs)

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