CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The holiday season is a time of giving, but unfortunately it can be a time of "taking" as well.
The next several weeks are when you're at the highest risk of becoming a victim of theft.
Georgia ranked third in the nation for theft claims this month, according to data from State Farm. And it's a trend they've seen for several years now.
"Of course this time of year, the holiday season, and people have a lot more gifts and more valuable things that they're leaving in their car or at their home," said Erica Herndon, State Farm agent.
At Erica Herndon's Savannah office, four people have filed theft claims this week alone. Police say they've noticed the trend, too, as people get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
"So we can be forgetful when that happens, and when we make ourselves more of a target in those situations, crime tends to find us," said Hillary Nielsen, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police.
SCMPD's "Jingle Bell Patrol" is underway right now. It's an effort to increase patrols in areas where shoppers are most vulnerable. And so far, it's been successful. From 2013 to 2014, the special patrols helped cut holiday car break-ins by 26 percent.
Officer Nielsen said the majority of crimes they see this time of year can often be prevented.
"Well, especially out shopping. You're going to be in and out of stores trying to get some last-minute gifts. We ask that once you get those gifts, you lock them in your trunk and put them out of sight. You don't want somebody walking by your car to see that and be tempted. The other thing is when you're running in and out of stores, please don't leave your purse or any sort of valuables, your wallet, visible on your seat or in the car," said Nielsen.
But it's not just gifts that can get stolen. Every year, 16 million people are victims of identity theft is prevalent. And that can be costly.
"People spend 60 hours trying to get their identity back and restore some of the damage that's been done," said Herndon.
Here are a few tips from State Farm to avoid identity theft:
- Check your receipts and keep track of your transactions.
- Change your online banking passwords often.
- Try to stick to one credit card to do your shopping.
That can help minimize risk if your information is ever compromised.