While Holiday Shopping, Watch Your Back

Last week, Billshark presented tips on ways to protect yourself while shopping online. For those preparing to head out to the mall for Black Friday sales, or in the weeks following, you should also be aware of some of the ways your cash could be at risk in brick-and-mortar locations.

Law enforcement officials report that, unfortunately, the holiday season is prime time for criminal activity. Shoppers are hurried, purchasing multiple gifts, and shopping in crowded venues, often alone. They are also more likely to be carrying large amounts of cash, and/or multiple credit cards. Thus, they are tempting targets for thieves.

So keep these guidelines in mind as you venture out.

While shopping

Shop during daylight hours, if possible. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and leave the expensive stuff — especially jewelry — at home. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, and keep a record of all your credit and debit card numbers at home in a safe place, along with the security codes on the backs, and the numbers to call to report a missing/stolen card.

Carry your purse next to your body, and your wallet inside your coat or a front trouser pocket. Enjoy the displays and the decorations, but don’t become so focused on the decor or on finding that perfect gift that you neglect to pay attention to those around you. If you feel anyone getting too close to you, move immediately, either to the checkout counter or out of the store, if necessary.

Do not hesitate to report any suspicious person to the security guard or to a clerk or management. Beware of the distraction ploy, in which one person might approach you to ask for help or information while his partner picks your pocket or cuts the strap on your purse.

Don’t buy more than you can comfortably carry. Try to have a friend or relative accompany you, not only to share the load, but also to help you scope out your surroundings. If you have a great deal to carry, ask if a store employee can help you to your car.

While checking out

Wait until asked before you take out your credit card, checkbook, or cash. Always shield the keypad if you’re entering your password/security code. If you notice anyone shoulder surfing while you complete your transaction, ask them politely to step back. You can plead claustrophobia if you’re afraid of seeming rude, but rudeness to strangers is preferable to being the victim of a crime.

If you find you’ve collected several smaller parcels, ask the clerk for a shopping bag, or even a larger plastic bag that will allow you to consolidate your purchases into something you can more easily keep track of.

In the parking lot

Avoid driving alone or at night, if possible. If you must shop alone at night, park in a well-lighted place as close as you can to your destination. Keep all doors and windows closed, and be sure to lock the car when you leave.

Do not leave packages on the seat of your car. It just takes a moment for a canny thief to “smash-and-grab;” that is, to break the window of your car and remove your valuables.

Many malls offer security personnel who will accompany you to your car. If they don’t, ask if an employee can go with you.

Have your keys in hand before leaving the store/mall, and check the front and back seats before opening the vehicle.

Billshark doesn’t want to make you paranoid, because most people will never have a problem while shopping, either online or in the store. But too many do, so these few precautions can help keep your holidays merry. So have fun, but be aware.

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