Contactless technology makes shopping easy. Spend less than £30 and you don’t need to worry about rummaging around for change in your purse or remembering PIN numbers.
But it also gives criminals another avenue to access your hard-earned cash – without you knowing anything about it.
“One of the latest initiatives we have been involved in is the distributing of card defender wallets,” said Moira Heeps, vice-chairwoman of the Falkirk and District Community Safety Panel.
“If you are holding a contactless card in your hand in a shop waiting to pay for something, there could be someone standing right behind you.
“And, if they have the correct app or technology, they can scan your card.”
Helping in everyday, local situations and preventing crime and the fear of crime in our communities is what the safety panel is all about.
Since establishing itself locally more than 30 years ago, it has continued to work with Police Scotland, the fire service, Falkirk Council and Neighbourhood Watch to make people aware of local threats and criminal trends.
With around 20 members, the safety panel is a well informed, voluntary, civic-minded group.
Most are also part of other community groups, such as community councils, so are well aware of what is going on in their areas.
Moira said: “Working closely with other groups and authorities makes what we do really worthwhile.
“A representative from the police and the fire service attend our meetings, and we help them in any way we can to inform people about what’s going in.
“We also get out and about in the community to inform people – in the places they may be vulnerable.
“For example, we’ve been on visits to Tesco with the police to alert people about ATM skimming.
“We’ve also been promoting purse bells, particular among the elderly.
“We visit the Howgate Shopping Centre twice a year and we speak to people who are perhaps out and about with their handbags open.
“The purse bells mean that people can hear it when someone goes for their purse, and we also hand out leaflets about thefts, especially to people who are more at risk.
“Keeping abreast of what’s going on is really important.
“The police are very good at telling us what’s going on.
“For example, Polmont has been targetted lately for car thefts and house break-ins, so we had an initiative recently working with the police and Neighbourhood Watch at the local Aldi store to remind people about home security.”
The panel has also been involved with distributing flame retardant bedding, working with high schools to promote personal alarms and issuing safety leaflets at crucial times such as just before Christmas and the summer holidays.
Moira, from Brightons, who has been awarded an MBE for her voluntary work, said: “In the past few years, there have been so many new initiatives and we have seen so many changes, so who knows what the next five will bring?
“Many of the members on the panel have been involved for a long time and it would be nice to have some new members, particularly young people.
“Everyone is welcome to our regular meetings in Falkirk Fire Station but the annual general meeting next month provides us with a great opportunity to recruit new members and add some fresh faces and ideas to the panel.”
Tracy Cameron, chairwoman of the panel, said: “Falkirk and District Community Safety Panel aims to make Falkirk a safer place to live, work and visit.
“By working in partnership with Falkirk Council, Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, we take a proactive approach to the issues that affect our community either by leaflets and posters or in more innovative ways such as protective sleeves for contactless bank cards, and face-to-face contact throughout the year.
“We hope to reinforce and further enhance the many safety messages people face in their everyday lives. I would encourage anyone with an interest io safety to get involved. We only ask for a few hours a month or so.”
The Falkirk and District Community Safety Panel’s annual general meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Tuesday, June 6, in the council chambers where the guest speaker will be Willie Clark of Neighbourhood Watch Scotland.
Anyone interested in attending should email firstname.lastname@example.org.