As we enter into the silly season, many of you will be venturing forth to do some holiday shopping. While online shopping is, of course, extremely popular, there is still a significant percentage of people who prefer visiting the stores in person. Whether that’s because they enjoy seeing the stores all decked out in holiday decorations or because they, for some twisted reason, love large crowds, the fact is that you need to take some common sense precautions when holiday shopping (as well as at any other time, of course).
How to Stay Safe Shopping During the Holidays
First, using credit cards is far safer than using cash. Cards can be canceled if lost. Cash, once it is gone, is gone forever. Plus, major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) often offer purchase protection. They will fight on your behalf should a retailer do something less than honorable. There is a risk in using credit, though, because it can be all too easy to spend over your self-imposed limits. Plus, there’s interest that can accrue if you’re unable to pay that balance in full when the bill arrives. But, when it comes to safe shopping, credit cards are the way to go if that’s a viable option for you.
Always be sure to get your card back from the cashier. When things are hectic at the store, mistakes (accidental or intentional) can happen. Take a second to look at the card handed to you and make sure it is yours. By the way, writing CID or See ID on the back of the card in place of your signature is a boneheaded move and many retailers won’t accept it any more. Doing this provides you with absolutely no extra protection whatsoever.
If you decide to use cash, count your change carefully. Many cashiers today just don’t do this anymore so you’ll have to do it for them. If you are carrying a large sum of cash, say your entire holiday shopping budget, it is wise to spread this out among several pockets. There are many styles of “body safes” and other hidden wallets you could utilize if that appeals to you. If nothing else, keep the bulk of your money relatively inaccessible, such as in your sock. As needed, hit a bathroom and peel off a few bills to put in your pocket for the next round of purchases.
For those who carry a purse, always carry it with the strap going across your body, from one shoulder to the opposite hip. This helps prevent purse snatchers from grabbing it on the run. Related to this, don’t ever put your purse in a shopping cart and leave it unattended for even a second. Far better to just keep it on your body. Again, though, don’t keep all of your cash in the purse. An experienced thief could cut the purse strap and keep on running.
If you’re shopping at a mall or some other place where you’re likely to amass several bags or boxes, make periodic trips to your car to unload. Stash your goodies in the trunk, where they won’t be visible. What you want to avoid is walking out to your car, trying to juggle a bunch of packages as you dig for your keys. Keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings. Before leaving the store, arrange everything so you have your keys in your hand and ready to use. If anything seems amiss, if your Spidey Sense is tingling, so to speak, immediately turn around and go back into the store. Ask if you could have an employee walk out to your vehicle with you. If you’re at a mall, contact mall security for this.
Shopping with a friend is typically far more fun, as well as safer. Some folks like to arrange for shopping parties, for lack of a better term, where a bunch of them get together and spend a day hitting a ton of stores. While this might not appeal to everyone, even just having one person with you can make for a much safer shopping trip. Criminals tend to target those who are alone.
Vehicle Safety while Holiday Shopping
When you get into your vehicle, buckle up and drive away as soon as possible. A somewhat common tactic for criminals is to approach a victim just after they’ve gotten into the vehicle, while they are fixing their hair, tuning the radio, or are otherwise distracted. If you simply must do these things before moving on to the next store, pull out of your parking space and drive to a different part of the parking lot, one that is free of obstructions like other cars so you can see all around you. Stop there and do what you need to do before moving on to your next destination.
Above all else, practice what we call situational awareness. Be aware of what’s around you, rather than wearing the proverbial blinders so many others keep on their heads. Pay attention to the world and you’ll not only be able to see possible threats but you’ll exude an air of confidence, which is something criminals want to avoid.