With the holiday shopping season in full swing, I felt the need to send out a reminder to be aware of your safety and well being while out amongst the crowds. So many times we can become distracted with finding a great deal or socializing that it leaves us vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime. Use the safety tips below to increase your chances of having a happy and safe holiday shopping experience.
1. AVOID PARKING GARAGES– There are lots of places for thieves to hide in dimly lit parking garages. If possible, find parking on the street or use the valet service. If you absolutely have to park in a garage, make sure you have another person with you.
2. PUT AWAY YOUR CELL PHONE- Distracted shoppers make the perfect targets for thieves. A simple bumping of your bag can result in you losing your wallet or other valuables. Talking on your phone while on the way to your car can also make you less aware of your surroundings and a moving target.
3. CARRY A SMALL PURSE OR WALLET- To keep you risks of being robbed lower, carry a small purse or wallet big enough to hold your ID, a debit card, a credit card, Chapstick, car keys and your cell phone. Many cell phone cases have slots to hold your credit cards, and small cross body purses are harder to be pulled off your body. If possible reduce the size of your key ring to only include your car key and your house key and leave the rest at home.
4. AVOID CARRYING LARGE SUMS OF CASH- Thieves are on the lookout for shoppers who pull out large sums of cash to pay for their purchases. Use your debit or credit card to pay for as many items possible.
5. STORE PACKAGES OUT OF SIGHT IN YOUR CAR- Some of us may have to shop a while, take some packages to the car, and shop some more. If you must take them to your car, put them in the trunk or under the seats where they cannot be seen. Some stores will even hold your packages while you shop, which is probably an even better solution.
6. HAVE YOUr KEYS IN YOUR HAND BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE STORE- Walking to the car with keys in hand is time efficient, and safe. This way you can focus on where you are going.
7. GET IN THE CAR AND LOCK THE DOOR- Behind the locked doors of your car is going to be the safest place for you with all of your holiday purchases. IMMEDIATELY lock the doors, then take care of buckling in the little ones or making that phone call.
8. CHECK YOU RECEIPT BEFORE LEAVING THE STORE- There is safety in numbers and well lit stores. Make sure you check your receipt before leaving the store to ensure that you have not been overcharged. Checking it while you are walking down the mall can leave you distracted and exposed to thieves.
9. AVOID GIVING MONEY TO PANHANDLERS AND PEOPLE IN PARKING LOTS- I know many of you will not agree with this one, but I have to stand firm. You could be walking right into an ambush and not even know it. If you are feeling charitable, the Salvation Army is outside many stores with the famous red kettles. Drop a few bucks in one of them on your way out of the store and feel good about helping others who are less fortunate.
10. BEWARE OF PEOPLE TELLING YOU TO PULL OVER OR SOMEBODY COMING UP TO YOUR CAR- Many thieves have orchestrated elaborate ways to victimize you. A common one is a woman coming up to your window and telling you that your tire is flat. Soon as you get out to check it, her and an accomplice rob you and beat you up. Other thieves have been known to point at your car while you are driving down the street trying to get you to pull over. They too may say you have a flat tire or something is hanging from your car door only to victimize you. IF you believe either one of these things to be true, pull into a public gas station or police department and check it out for yourself.
11. CARRY A WHISTLE, BODY ALARM OR PEPPER SPRAY– I keep my hands in my pocket wrapped around my pepper spray key chain on the way to my car. If I have to use it, I'm already armed and ready. If you feel threatened or scared, use the panic button and set off your car alarm. Thieves don't like to draw attention to themselves with noise and commotions. If you ever find yourself in this position, the more noise you make the better!
12. REMOVE ALL SHOPPING BAGS AND PACKAGES – When you finish your shopping, remove all of the packages and bags from your vehicle and take them inside. Even if you want to get a bite to eat, go home, unload, and then proceed to the restaurant.
These are just personal shopping tips from myself, and they are not 100% fail proof. You can always ask a security guard to walk you to your car free of charge. Be aware of your surroundings this holiday shopping season and have a very Merry Christmas!