This Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Christmas is not only a breathtaking time of the year with fun family gatherings and gift giving, but it is also the optimal period for crooks.
Here are some ideas suggested by crime prevention specialists to help boost your holiday shopping safety and security, and help conquer these holiday evildoers:
1. Carry only the credit cards, cash and checks you will need for your shopping. In general, it is best to avoid carrying large amounts of cash — use credit cards or checks, if possible, to make your purchases.
2. If your credit card is stolen, misused or lost, be sure to notify your credit card issuer at once. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep a complete inventory of your credit cards at home, along with their 800 numbers, just in case of these types of mishaps.
3. If you need to use an ATM while shopping, remember to use one located inside a busy, well-lit location and to withdraw only the amount of cash you actually need. Also, protect your PIN (personal identification number) by shielding the ATM keypad from any person who may be standing near you (and do not give out your PIN to anyone), and don’t throw way your ATM receipt at the ATM location. And remember, don’t “flash your cash.”
4. Don’t carry a purse or wallet, if possible, as they are the prime targets of thugs, even in crowded shopping areas.
5. Avoid wearing flashy or expensive jewelry.
6. Pickpockets and other petty bandits are looking for easy scores, so it might be a smart idea to carry cash, your identification and credit cards in your front pocket. If you do carry a shoulder bag, it’s best to carry it in front of you.
7. Stay alert at all times — even though there are a million things on your mind and you have a dozen things to do, be aware of your surroundings. Law enforcement calls this concept “situational awareness.” Remember, crooks will be more likely to confront you if they think you are distracted.
8. If you have a mobile phone, be sure to carry it on your person while shopping for added security. If you don’t have a mobile phone, you might consider getting one as a holiday gift — for yourself.
9. Try to avoid driving alone or at night, and travel on busy, well-lit roads. Keep your doors and windows closed while in or out of your vehicle. Park was close as you can to your shopping and remember where you have parked.
Don’t approach your vehicle alone if you observe suspicious people in the vicinity. And never leave your vehicle unoccupied with the engine running or with children inside.
A Quick Security Tip: Many malls and shopping centers would be happy to supply a security escort to your car upon request.
10. Don’t overload yourself with all those packages of holiday goodies! It is vital to have clear visibility to avoid accidents and observe suspicious people. Once you make your purchases, it’s a good plan to secure them in your vehicle’s trunk or cover them with a sheet or blanket — never leave them in open view. Don’t create a temptation for criminals.
11. Beware of suspicious people approaching you. Especially during this shopping season, Christmas criminals are always looking for opportunities to take your hard-earned money or property. In short, don’t leave your common sense at home while doing your holiday shopping.
For more information on having a safe holiday as well as year-round crime prevention tips, contact your local police department.
My Final Thoughts: Please don’t leave your “common sense” and “good judgment” home while doing your holiday shopping.
And remember, don’t let the “Grinch” steal your Christmas!
Copyright 2009 by Bruce Mandelblit
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
Bruce Mandelblit (www.CrimeZilla.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His e-mail address is CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
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