Evy Poumpouras

Tips to Prevent Package Theft This Holiday Season

Lindsey Cavanaugh
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This holiday shopping season, more packages will be delivered to American homes than ever before. All those gifts will bring great joy, but they also mean thieves will be out looking for opportunities to steal packages too. After many years of experience working with law enforcement, here is my best advice to keep thieves away and prevent them from ruining your holiday.

One: Shop at reputable websites. 

During this gift-giving season, you’ll receive emails from fraudsters promising amazing discounts on luxury or popular gifts. Be wary of these offers. You’ll not only end up paying for items you’ll never receive, but also give away your credit card and personal information. That’s why I recommend purchasing gifts from reputable websites and by name-brand online stores, you’re familiar with, such as Best Buy, Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart. All are names you can trust and that will often help by replacing stolen deliveries.

Two: Use your credit cards. 

Purchases made with most major credit cards are protected from loss. So, if you can’t get a refund or replacement from the store, you may be able to get help from your credit card company. For example, American Express Card Members are automatically eligible for Purchase Protection, which can help protect purchases from thieves or damages for up to 120 days from the date of purchase. 

Three: Track your packages. 

Many shipping companies today offer package tracking alerts by sending you emails or texts so you can follow your packages through each and every step of the delivery process. USPS, for example, offers a service called Informed Delivery where you’ll receive notifications telling you precisely when a package is dropped off at your home. Some online retailers offer similar options. Amazon offers a “Shipment Updates via Text” feature that you can find in your Amazon account settings. These features are great and simple to use. 

Four: Install a home security camera and smart lights. 

According to a new survey commissioned by Comcast, 74 percent of people thought having a visible home security camera is an effective way to prevent packages from being stolen. However, only 31 percent said they actually have one installed. Home security and automation services, like those from Xfinity Home, offer streaming video cameras with 24/7 continuous recording and smart lights that you can control from your smartphone anywhere, anytime. Security cameras are also great because they can capture footage you can share with law enforcement. Smart lights are also a great deterrent and you can control them easily from your device, turning them on or off, so burglars think someone is home even when no one is. A well-lit home is a safer home.

Five: Keep your front yard and driveway clean and tidy.

When it comes to discouraging thieves, not all security measures have to be high tech. Simply keeping the exterior of your home tidy and clean can make a difference. An overstuffed mailbox, trash cans that are bursting at the seams, newspapers or flyers left in your driveway or on your doorstep, all suggest you’re either not home or haven’t been for days. So make sure to keep your lawn, driveway, and front door well maintained this holiday season.

Six: Make a backup plan to get packages inside quickly.

If you’re expecting a package to arrive and won’t be home to receive it, then ask a neighbor, friend, or family member to get it for you. If you expect to be away or traveling during the holidays ask your neighbor to help you out by picking up your packages and mail. Communicating with neighbors is an effective way to keep your neighborhood safe. Not only can you agree to keep an eye on deliveries at one another’s homes, but you can also keep a lookout for strangers in the neighborhood. 

Seven: Report stolen packages to the police.

If the worst happens, and you are a victim of package theft, then report it to the police. Don’t assume you’re the only one in the neighborhood and that it doesn’t matter. Thieves often work in networks and steal from multiple homes. If your package is stolen, first try contacting the shipper and follow up by reporting the stolen package to your local police department. By numerous reports being filed, police can collect more evidence to putting the pieces together and identifying perpetrators. No detail is too small, even footage from cars parked on the street, or a few numbers from a license plate can make or break a case.

Published on Xfinity Discovery Hub, here.

My Kettlebell Workout

Robbin Watson

I was first introduced to this little torture device several years ago by the US Secret Service Counter Assault Team (CAT). They loved training with kettlebells so much, they actually carried them aboard our cargo planes whenever we travelled overseas on protection assignments. Since then, I became fascinated both by the breadth of exercises ... and amount of pain they produce. Who would have thought this bowling ball with a handle, originally called a “pood” in Russia, was the ultimate full body workout? It currently ranks at the top of my “suck” list right next to burpees, which is why they’re consistently part of my fitness routine. Not to mention it makes me feel like I’m starring in my own little Rocky IV episode ... minus the four feet of snow ... and furry collared jacket.

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Kettlebells are great for an overall body conditioning exercise, elevating your heart rate, and tightening your glutes and thighs. So if you want a tight *ss – this should be your go-to exercise.

Perform 4 sets of 10-12 repetitions each.

Tip: When doing this exercise for the first time, it’s natural to feel the kettlebell trying to pull you off your feet or wanting to travel back past your feet on its return. Don’t let it. The important part of the exercise is controlling its momentum, so start with basic swings. Once you get used to the weight, you can increase your range of motion.

For reference, I’m swinging a Rogue 18lbs kettlebell in these photos.

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1)   Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the kettlebell evenly with both hands allowing it to hang in front of your body. Roll your shoulders slightly back and keep your chin level to the ground.

2)   Slowly begin bending at the knees and allow the kettlebell to travel down and back toward your heels. Lean slightly forward, keeping your back straight– do not round your back - eyes focused forward, and arms straight.

3)   Once your thighs are slightly above parallel, quickly stand and while maintaining straight arms allow the kettlebell to arc up in front of you. By using the momentum of your body’s upward motion, swing the kettlebell to at least eye level, but not past perpendicular to the ground (directly overhead).

4)   Once the kettlebell reaches a certain height – determined by the force of your momentum - reverse the movement by beginning to squat down again. As you continue to maintain straight arms, allow the kettle bell to arc back to its original starting position. Then repeat.

What's In My "Go Bag"

Robbin Watson
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Everybody needs a “go bag.” Let me explain exactly what that is. A “go bag” is something you should have ready for emergency situations. It should contain things that you or your family need on a daily basis to not only survive but also function. This way, if you need to leave your home immediately, you have all of your essentials in one location – think Hurricane Harvey or the California wildfires. During stressful situations, it is not the time to be looking for your passport or your extra cell phone charger.

Here are a few of the items that I keep in mine, but make sure to customize your “go-bag” to your own specific needs.  For example, think about any medications a child may need or something as simple as an extra pair of eyeglasses. Also, consider adding dry snacks and a few bottles of water in case you find yourself without access to food.

  1. Passport – It’s the main accepted ID, not only in the US but throughout the world.

  2. Mace Brand personal alarm – It’s a great way to draw attention to yourself – in case you're physically attacked or ever lost.

  3. Hand warmers – I’ve been using hand warmers for years because I spend a lot time working outside. When you’re in the cold your extremities are the first to feel the effects.

  4. Keys – It’s always a good idea to have an extra set.

  5. CPR facemask – I keep this in case I need to give assistance or help another person in need. Emergency situations, don’t just affect you they affect everyone around you.

  6. Utility tool – They really come in handy. It’s like having a toolbox in the palm of your hand.

  7. Sunglasses Not only do they shield you from the sun but they offer great eye protection as well.

  8. Flashlight – This is super important. If the power goes out or you’re out at night, you have the ability to see without needing to rely on anything else.

  9. Mace Brand pepper spray – Even in emergency situations you should never let your guard down. It’s an extra layer of keeping yourself safe.

  10. Knife  It’s another great utility tool. You can use it to cut through rope, tape, or even a seatbelt strap.

  11. Matches / lighter You might find yourself in need to stay warm, cook food or light candles.

  12. Cash – Cash is king! Especially the US dollar. It can get you out of any situation in almost every part of the world.

  13. Portable cell phone charger – We’ve become so reliant on our phones in terms of communication or GPS. Having a dead cell phone may severely limit your ability to call for help and remain aware of what is going on around you.

  14. First aid kit – A definite must. You may find yourself in a situation where you don’t have access to medical care.

  15. Credit cards – Having a back-up to cash is important in case you run out.

  16. Pain reliever / aspirin – It’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.

  17. Glow sticks – It’s a way to make yourself seen in the dark and they can last for a long time. I keep these in my car too.

  18. Go bag – It’s not a fashion show. Pick something that is durable with extra compartments.

How to Negotiate a Higher Salary

Hilary Silverman

Know your audience.

Do your homework on your boss. Make sure you know their past and how he/she got to be where they are today. If you can understand your boss on a personal level that will be helpful in creating a connection. You don’t want to go in there and go straight to business. You don’t want your boss to feel that all you want from them is money.  Show you care and are interested in them as a person. This way you can create a relationship built on trust and respect.

Ask WHY? “Why is it not negotiable?"

This will completely throw them off as they aren’t expecting it. It is likely you will be able to find out the real reason behind the denial.  Ask for an explanation. There might be a very good reason. It also shows that you are not one to blindly accept what you are given. It takes courage to ask WHY. Most people would just say ok and accept it. Then, your follow-up question should be WHEN in the future could the salary be negotiated. Find out how often or not often this boss gives raises.

Forget your gender.

 Most women self-sabotage by thinking that because they are women they will automatically be treated differently. That is not always the case. When you walk into your bosses office you are walking in as dedicated and strong employee - not a female employee. If you start labeling yourself by your gender it will absolutely alter you psychological mindset. It will put you at a disadvantage because you are associating that because you are a woman that your value is different. Forget your gender. Walk in with your head high. Have strong body language and good eye contact. And believe in yourself and why you have earned this raise. Your gender should have nothing to do with it, so don’t let that worry seep into your thoughts.

Maintain your professionalism.

I don’t care if your boss raises their voice. It gets tense. Or anything else. It will show how strong and confident you are. Never mimic any unflattering behavior. Nothing should deter you if you truly believe you have earned a better salary. Nor should you let anyone else's unprofessional behavior throw you off. Always carry yourself with grace and dignity, even if your boss doesn’t. You can still be assertive without being unprofessional.

Everything should always be face to face.  

Negotiating your salary is extremely important. Don’t hide behind a computer or the phone. When you can look someone eye-to-eye it makes all the difference in the world. It also makes it harder for your boss to say no to you. People are always more brazen when they don’t have to address you in person. Make your boss say no to your face. And when he or she does, then ask WHY? Just as you are going in there and articulating why you have earned this raise, they should articulate to you why you haven’t earned it.

How to Appear More Confident

Hilary Silverman

When it comes to wardrobe, colors matter.

In a professional environment, wear darker colors like black, navy or gray. People will take you more seriously and listen to what you have to say. Avoid bright and bold colors, especially yellow, pink, purple and orange. They exude a softness and send the message that you are easy to intimidate.

Take up space.

In environments where people feel uncomfortable, they tend to make themselves small by hunching in their shoulders and slouching as if they are trying to make themselves invisible. Confident people sit up right and take up space. Their chest is open and shoulders are pushed back. Their body sends the message that they deserve to be there.

Look at people.

Direct eye contact in the western world is important. Confident people don’t shy away from eye contact. Look at people when you speak and more importantly, look at them when they speak. It shows that you are listening and care about what they have to say. It also sends the message that you are sure of yourself and your abilities.

Slow down your speech.

Take your time and breathe when you speak. Don’t rush through your words. Hurried speech is a strong indication of nervousness and sends the message that what you have to say isn’t that important. Slow deliberate speech implies that you are thoughtful and what you say matters.

Tone and pitch.

Your voice can exude confidence or insecurity. It’s not just your words that are important, but the way in which you speak them. When we are nervous, our voice goes up and we end our statements as if they are questions. As a result, people will not take you seriously. Take your hand and place it on your collar bone, then speak. When your collar bone vibrates, that is an indication you are speaking at your natural tone and pitch. Let your voice resonate and fill up the room when you address others.

Do something that makes you feel strong before your interaction.

Listen to a song that makes you feel empowered, watch your favorite television show or go out and get in a great workout. The point is to do something that puts you into a confident mindset. Any action that makes you feel powerful will alter your psychological mindset.