As the holidays approach, most of us have intentions of starting our shopping early in order to avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, many of us will be right there with the rest of the last-minute shoppers, fighting for the last television set or the hottest toy of the year. If you find yourself being pushed and pulled through the throng of shoppers at the mall this season, here’s how to keep both yourself and your possessions safe:
The first step in being safe while shopping this season is in paying attention to where you park and how you leave you car. Make sure that you park your car under a working lamp post, especially if you will be leaving the mall in the dark. According to the National Crime Prevention Bureau, you should also make sure that nothing is in your windows, and you should check your back seat and the area surrounding your vehicle before you unlock your doors.
We’ve all seen that person walking through the mall, loaded down with so many packages that we’re surprised they can move; don’t be this person. You should never purchase more than you can carry in one hand. If you find yourself buying several items, make a few trips to the car, locking your purchases in your trunk. Thieves and criminals target people who appear as though they can’t defend themselves; if you are carrying an armful of packages you are virtually asking to be a victim.
If you are carrying a purse, make sure that it is worn across your body and under your coat. If you carry a hand bag, it’s very easy to set it down and walk away from it. If you carry a shoulder bag, an enterprising thief can rip it off of your arm and be gone before you even know what has happened. By carrying your purse across your body and under your coat, you eliminate the risk of having it stolen significantly. When you do carry your purse in this manner, make sure that the strap isn’t so long that your bag is hanging from under your coat. A few snips of the scissors is all it will take for a thief to call your bag his own.
When you finally make it to the cash register, don’t pull out your checkbook or credit card until you are ready to hand it over. Standing with your checkbook or card in your hand while you are in line allows people to look over your shoulder and copy down your information. If you use a credit card, make sure that your body is blocking the card reader. Once you’re done paying, put your checkbook or credit card back into your wallet immediately.
Receipts aren’t only a good thing to save in case someone wants to return a gift. Keeping your receipts will ensure that you are alerted to any illegal credit card activity once your statements begin to roll in. Once your statement comes in the mail, pull out your receipts and compare them to the charges on your statement. If there are any charges that you didn’t make, alert your credit card company immediately.
Part of the fun of holidays is shopping for the people we love. Sadly, for many people, this fun is hampered by thieves and other criminals. If you follow the tips above, you’ll be as safe as you and your possessions will be as safe as possible this holiday shopping season.
Kara Martin blogs for criminaljustice.com, a site where you’ll find diverse information on criminal justice careers and education.