Holiday Shopping Safety

Shop Safely for Holiday Cheer, Without the Fear
Few things can ruin the holidays faster than becoming the victim of a crime, but following a few easy tips can help reduce your risk of running into trouble while you’re shopping.
Stay Visible, but Casual
Thieves look for easy targets, including those in dark locations and with expensive products. Plan to do your shopping during the day if possible, but if you go at night, park in well-lit areas and near store entrances. If you arrive during the day but realize you’ll be leaving after it gets dark, pay a little extra attention to make sure you park near lights. Shop with other adults; there’s safety in numbers. Dress casually and comfortably, not to the nines. That also means leaving the expensive jewelry at home. And if you can, leave your purse and wallet behind also. If you leave any expensive gadgets in your car, such as cell phones, GPS devices, mp3 players, and others, put them out sight, under the seat or in the glove box.
Don’t Be a Temptation
Similar to not wearing expensive jewelry, don’t have any obvious displays of extravagance. Keep cash to a minimum and don’t flash it around. Pay for purchases with checks or credit cards whenever possible. Never leave purchases unattended. It’s also a good idea to keep everything to one or two large bags to make it easier to keep track of everything. If you make multiple trips between your car and the stores, store everything in the trunk or hide it under seats. Also save your most expensive purchases for last. If you carry a purse, keep it close to your body and have it open toward you. If you carry a wallet, keep it in your front pocket instead of a back one; it’s harder to pickpocket that way.
Stay Alert
The holiday season is a fun time, but it can also be draining. Fighting crowds during shopping can tire you out, and, though science has not done a study on it, it seems safe to say that your brain can turn to mush after the 400th time you hear “Jingle Bells.” Fight through it and pay attention to your surroundings. Contact your credit card company as soon as possible if you notice yours is missing. Be aware of a stranger approaching you and be on guard for scams; many con artists try to take advantage of your fatigue as well as the holiday spirit pervading this time of year. Contact security or police if you notice anything suspicious, and you don’t have to be approached for there to be suspicious behavior. Being distracted and unaware is an easy way to be taken advantage of.
Watch Your Kids
In addition to being a distraction to you and making you a target to thieves, children have other safety concerns. Always keep your child close by, and never use an arcade or toy store as a de facto babysitter – more than 100,000 children are abducted every year, often from retail outlets. Also be careful of a child’s interaction with shopping carts, as their narrow wheel placements make them easy to tip. Estimates suggest more than 20,000 children go to the hospital each year as a result of falls from carts. If you have a child riding in a cart, make sure to place them in the seat, not in the basket, and always use the harness. Make sure children outside the cart do not try to climb in, especially if they have a brother or sister who is riding inside. It’s a better idea to find a babysitter or family member to watch your kids while you take care of the shopping.

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