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'Tis the season...to be vigilant

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Many of us hear a lot of talk about the increase in crime during the holiday season. We are warned time and again to lock our doors, make sure we know who we are doing business with, and to keep our wits when we are out in public, especially when in a crowd.

A current, long-time employee of Patrick Air Force Base recently learned that lesson the hard way. Here is her first-person account of a not so cheery "holiday" experience she had Nov. 25:

"Talk about a real eye- opener. I recently had my wallet stolen from my purse at a store in the Florida Mall. I do have to admit it was a moment of carelessness on my part - I had unzipped my purse to take out a discount coupon, and did not zip the purse back up. When I started to walk across the store a man bumped into me and the next thing I know my wallet was gone.

"I discovered it within seconds of it happening but that did not stop them from charging nearly $7,000 on my personal cards before I was able to cancel my credit cards.

"All my cards have 'See ID,' yet this was obviously not a hindrance to the person's using my cards - or to the store employees who were checking out their illegal purchases.

"So, as you can guess they got my credit cards - including my government credit card - my driver's license, insurance cards, and dependent ID card, which, of course, had both my husbands and my social security numbers.

"When I look back, I think one of my lessons learned is while you are waiting on the police and security (which takes time and time was valuable in this case), start calling your credit card companies to cancel your cards. While I was waiting for security I did have the forethought to take my husband's ATM card and call Bank of America and immediately cancelled my ATM.

"But cancelling your credit cards is not an easy thing to do when your cards are gone - in my case my husband was not carrying the cards with him and any information I needed was an hour away.

"So I headed to Customer Service in the Mall and they pulled the necessary phone numbers up on the computer for me - which was a tremendous help.

"Another lesson is to not carry your credit cards in your wallet, but put them in a concealed area in your purse. Take out any cards you are not using - I had three that I had not used in months.

"These were professionals, not kids, after my money. I did not feel them lift the wallet from my purse. I understand there were 12 wallets stolen at the Mall to include mine that day. We all need to be more vigilant. I am not responsible for the charges on my credit cards but you still feel violated and it is a real hassle getting your life back together from getting a new driver's license, an ID card, an ATM and everything else associated with something like this.

"And it could've been avoided if I'd been more careful. I know that now." 

Vigilance is key this holiday season. Be aware. You've heard it from someone who learned...the hard way.