As the holidays approach, it is a busy time for shoppers, retailers and thieves. Preparation is the best defense against becoming a victim. Here are some tips…
- Consumers are more likely to visit crowded stores and malls while shopping. Scam artists and fraudsters know this, so they are likely to be there also. So follow the following holiday shopping safety tips to help reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a crime.
- Plan ahead, shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member. If you are shopping with small children, make a plan in case you are separated. Select a central meeting place and consider teaching them to ask mall personnel or store security for help.
- Dress casually and comfortably. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry. Take only what you need with you. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay for purchases with a check or preferably with a credit card when possible. You have more protections using a credit card, than a debit card.
- Women should carry their purse close to their body. They should place their purse strap over their head and across their chest. Men should carry their wallet in a front pocket. They might consider putting a rubber band around their wallet to create friction in case someone tries to pick pocket them.
- When parking at the mall or a store, park as close to the entrance as possible and near a light post so you will be in a well-lit area in case you come out after dark. Before you get out of your vehicle, make sure you do not leave anything in plain sight, such as a navigation system, or briefcase. Lock your vehicle. Be aware of your surroundings.
- When making a purchase, wait until the clerk asks for payment before taking out your credit card, cash or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to look over your shoulder to get your account information. Carry your receipt in your wallet or purse, not in your shopping bag. Save receipts in case of a return and to compare with your statements.
- Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps. Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Con artists try various methods of distraction to take your belongings or money.
- While it is a season of giving, be wary of panhandlers or solicitors. They are waiting for you to pull out your wallet so they can see how much cash you have. If you want to donate, donate locally after checking out the charity.
- Tell a security guard or store employee if you see any unattended bags or packages. When departing the mall or store, have your key or key fob in your hand. If you feel threatened while going to your vehicle, do not proceed to your vehicle, return to the mall or store. There is safety in numbers.
- Before getting in your vehicle, peak inside to make sure no one is inside your vehicle. Place your packages in your vehicle. If you have an SUV or van, cover your packages with a blanket.
- If you are making it an all-day shopping event, take an opportunity for a little break from shopping. Drive around and get a snack. Or perhaps drive to a different parking location before heading back inside. This will help deter a thief, they monitor parking lots.
By following these basic steps, you can help protect yourself from becoming a victim. If you become a victim of theft or fraud, file a report with your local law enforcement agency.
[Photo courtesy of andreasnilsson1976/Flickr]