University Police Department

A Guide To Staying Safe During the Holidays

  • BY Maha Sanad
  • December 16, 2021

The holidays are for spending time with family and friends, but they can also be a time of elevated stress. Familial stress, gift-shopping and work issues are just some of the contributing factors to the high tension during the holiday season.

High stress and tension could be the reason for the increase in crime during the holiday season. Particularly, the holidays are characterized by an increase in theft, cyber fraud, and reports of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence

“It has been my experience that there is typically an increase in domestic violence during the holiday season. The holidays are a festive and joyous occasion but they can also be stressful,” said Mark Flores, Chief of Police for the University Police Department (UPD). 

Unfortunately, many domestic violence cases go unreported, but there are a few things you can do if you see signs of someone being in an abusive relationship. Dr. Dawna Komorosky, a professor in the department of Criminal Justice with a focus on domestic violence, shares some of the signs of an abusive relationship along with what you can do if you suspect it:

Three signs of an abusive relationship:

  1. The person is jealous/possessive and/or unpredictable.
  2. They exhibit controlling behaviors, which include denying access to finances and/or the amount of time spent with friends and family.
  3. They make threats to harm or physically abuse the family pet as a way to instill fear and control family members.

Three ways to support someone you believe is in an abusive relationship:

  1. Educate yourself about what it means to experience domestic violence and the best ways to help. 
  2. Listen and validate concerns in a non-judgmental way. 
  3. Connect them with resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline or Center for Prevention and Abuse. Local sources include Ruby’s Place and SAVE (Safe Alternatives to Violence Environments).

Cyber crime

Another crime that we see an elevated risk of during the holidays is cyber fraud, including phishing, identity theft, and credit card fraud. According to the FBI 2020 Internet Crime Report, there was a 69 percent increase in 2020 from the total number of internet crimes reported in the United States in 2019 with the reported losses from these crimes reaching $4.2 billion.

“During the holiday season, people are participating in online shopping at a much higher rate than usual, providing more opportunities for fraud to occur,” said Thomas Dixon, Director of Information Security and Infrastructure at Cal State East Bay. “Additionally, during the holiday buying period, more people who either seldom or rarely shop online are participating and may be less familiar with indications of online fraud. Criminals are aware of these conditions and so tailor their activities to take advantage of them.”

The increase in cyber fraud around the holidays is often a result of a mix of increased online shopping and shoppers being distracted during the hectic time of year. Dixon suggests three things people should watch for to guard against being a victim of cyber fraud:

  1. Fake online stores: Fake websites will pop up offering steep discounts on popular items, usually at unbelievable discounts, especially during the holidays. There are usually signs to watch to see that a site is fake. The site name or web pages may contain extra letters or misspelled words, they do this to elude automated fraud scanning services. These sites will often ask for money orders or gift cards for payments so that the funds cannot be recovered easily.
  2. Package delivery notification scams: This fraud can easily catch the busy online shopper that is trying to keep track of when their purchases will arrive. This can come as an email or text me, aessagnd will say that you missed a delivery and provide a link for you to arrange for delivering the package again. When you click on the link, it will ask for login or personal information in an attempt to defraud you. The best practice here is to go directly to the website of the online stores you purchase from to check on delivery. If you have a tracking number, go directly to the shipper's website to enter the number.
  3. Check your credit card and/or banking statements: You should do this year round, at least once a month when your statement arrives. However, during the holidays it is a good practice to check them more often for fraudulent activity, weekly should be sufficient. Most institutions also offer to set up alerts when they think fraud is occurring; be sure to check with your financial institution and enable those alerts. 


Theft during the holidays is a common enough occurrence where everyone should be on guard. Vehicle break-ins happen more around November, January, and December and Cal State East Bay is not exempt from that.

“In December 2019, CSUEB had three vehicle break-ins, zero in 2020 and three so far in December 2021,” said Chief Flores “There are typically more vehicle break-ins during the holiday season because criminals expect to find packages and other valuables in cars during this time.”

While it is not possible to completely prevent your vehicle from being broken into, there are a few safeguards that the UPD recommends the campus community do to stay safe while holiday shopping:

  1. Do not leave any items in your vehicle. If you are shopping, be discreet about locking your packages in the trunk because criminals are known to case parking lots looking for cars to break in with packages and valuables.
  2. Park your car in well-lit areas.
  3. Go shopping in pairs. Take a friend, family member or partner with you.
  4. If you have items delivered, schedule a delivery time when you are at home to avoid theft. 

The holidays can be a stressful time of year so it is important to implement safeguards to protect yourself from the increased risk of crimes. Learn the signs of cyber fraud and domestic violence and take those extra precautions against theft.

If you or anyone you know needs help, especially during this time of year, here are a few local resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention:  800-273-TALK
  • Alameda County Crisis Support:  800-309-2131
  • CSUEB Student Health Services:  510-885-3735