The holidays are upon us once again and there are lots of “extra” people in town and some who are looking for extra spending money. You don’t want to be their cash machine.
Let’s review a few “best practices” that can reduce the likelihood of coming to grief at any time of year, but the holidays in particular.
- DON'T LEAVE VALUABLES IN YOUR CAR. This almost seems too obvious, but in his talk at the BCP theater the other day, the new Minister of Security for Panama related how he had left his laptop in his car parked on the street in Panama City and was shocked to find it gone when he returned. Shocked!
And remember to lock your car as well...
- DO NOT OPEN YOUR FRONT DOOR OR GATE until you know FOR SURE who is out there and what they want. I received a report the other day from a resident about someone coming to her front gate and claiming to be from Cable Onda. She noticed that he did not have a car, was not in uniform and did not have a clipboard. He was sent away. Who knows what might have happened had he gotten inside.
There are lots of strangers in town during this time. For maximum safety, stop them at your front gate/door. Anyone who needs to visit can call you on your phone. If they do get onto your property, pull out your phone and take their picture. Don’t be shy.
Having a visible security camera that records all the goings on at your front entrance is a very good deterrent and could provide valuable information if bad guys are roaming your neighborhood.
- BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT CARRYING LARGE AMOUNTS OF CASH - Two of the most brutal recent home invasions happened the very night that the victims had withdrawn over $1000 from the same bank. In one case, the robbers asked for the specific amount withdrawn. Not all banks are ratting out their customers, but it only takes one bad-egg, not necessarily even a teller, to ruin your life forever. Even carrying large amounts of cash from the bank to your car is a dangerous undertaking, especially if you are alone.
Withdrawing large amounts of cash from the bank and taking it home with you, especially overnight, is extremely dangerous and could cost you your life.
A friend just returned from Costa Rica and told me that violent home invasions against expats were very common there, and that the bank withdrawal scam was the most frequent method for setting up victims.
There have been cases in Chiriqui where people sold their cars in the afternoon (after the banks had closed), for cash and had the robbers return in the night to steal it back.
So if you have to receive a large amount of money from someone, go with them to your bank, receive the money in the bank and deposit it immediately while they watch.
Then, if you need to pay a large bill in cash (not credit card), giving them a check is quite safe. Otherwise, go to your bank and transfer the money directly into their account. Or take them to your bank, withdraw the money and hand it to them right there in the bank.
I know these are not the most cheerful of holiday messages, but if they help keep you safe, then we can all enjoy the holidays with more security and pleasure.