‘Tis the season to be jolly but, most importantly, it’s the season to be safe. In December, with the gift buying rush upon us, we are all vulnerable to theft and all sorts of holiday crimes, both outside and inside the house.
We either go to the mall or wait in line to get money out of the ATM or wander around parking lots in search of our cars with our arms filled with bags and packages, there is surely a lot to handle.
You might say ‘but wait, this happens all throughout the year’ – and you’d be right. However, during the holidays, people are also a lot busier than usual and can get more easily distracted or careless than they normally would.
To make things easier, we put together a list of 35 holiday shopping safety tips you need to know to have the best time of the year while getting rid of some of the stress associated with it.
1. It All Starts before You Even Leave to Go Shopping
If you like shopping in full daylight, then you should also plan before you leave your home:
- Bring someone with you, if possible. You get to enjoy their company, and there’s always safety in numbers!
- If possible, do not let children stay at home alone this time of year, as tragedies are not unheard of. Have a grandparent or a sitter wait for you until your return from a shopping spree.
- If you have a security system in place, do not forget to use it before you leave the house.
- If you live alone, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. One of the best ideas is to use your smartwatch (there’s enough time left to get one this year) to help you with your GPS needs, Internet connectivity, or phone calls in case of an emergency or for when you are driving.
- Plan your route carefully – you should know where you will be going shopping and what way you should take to arrive there faster and safer.
Next on, we will be pointing out some of the things you should consider if you are looking to go shopping after your working hours.
2. Evening or Nighttime Holiday Shopping Safety Tips
Most malls, shops, and brands extend their program so everybody can shop after their working hours. The primary issues are as follows:
- Thieves and pickpockets can roam and operate freely in crowded shopping centers, taking advantage of our rush and lack of attention.
- We are basically shopping at nighttime, because of the ever shorter daylight hours. This means we have to cross parking lots in the semi-dark, find our cars, spend time loading it and then unloading the vehicles at home, and so on and so forth – all of which can make us easy targets for burglars or people up to no good.
While the Police usually work extra hours and shifts in November and December, you cannot be too careful and make things easier for them and safer for yourself. Here are some holiday crime prevention safety tips suggested by the LAPD Crime Prevention Section for those who shop at night:
- Always take a friend, a work colleague, or a family member out shopping in the evening/night.
- Park in a safe area if you can’t park in the mall or shopping center’s parking lot.
- Even if you park in the mall’s parking lot, close all windows and doors, activate your car alarm, and always remember where you parked. (Find and set some landmark to make it easier to find. E.g., a lane number, distance from the entrance, etc.)
- Always lock your bags, packages, shopping items, and personal items in the trunk to avoid drawing the attention of thieves.
- When you return to the car with your arms full of bags and containers, always be aware of your surroundings.
- If you notice any suspicious activity around your car (suspicious-looking parked vans, trucks, or automobiles with tinted windows) or people checking out your ride, walk back to the mall and ask their security service for an escort. It’s better safe than sorry.
- When you arrive home, check your surroundings and have somebody help you unload your trunk (family, a neighbor, etc.), especially if it’s full.
3. Shoplifting and Pickpocketing Prevention Tips
Even when you shop in full daylight, you cannot be completely safe. Thieves and seasoned pickpockets scan people, choose the ones that seem the most distracted or the busiest and try tricking them.
They also select people who look like they might have valuables on them and target them. Here are some general holiday shopping safety tips you should always keep in mind:
- Dress down and use casual outfits that do not draw attention.
- Never wear expensive jewelry and accessories when shopping, especially when you are alone.
- Women should not carry their regular purses and wallets. Instead, they should bring a secure travel pouch to keep their money, cards, and personal items safe. Thieves lurk in shopping areas, open markets, in the street, subway stations, bus stations, other means of transportation, to give just a few examples.
- The above applies to men as well. They should never wear backpacks, messenger bags, or their wallets in the back pocket of their jeans. Instead, keep your money in your front pocket and everything else in the inside pockets of your zippered coat. Also, avoid carrying large amounts of cash (replace it with cards and checks if you can).
- Always stay alert to everything that is going on around you, even if a crowded mall is the last place where you can focus your attention.
- Do not overload yourself with packages and bags, as you need visibility and mobility in case someone approaches you.
- It sounds like a children’s warning, but do not talk to or engage with strangers, even if they intercept you. Con artists these days work in teams, devise, and premeditate elaborate plans to defraud you.
Here are some more holiday crime prevention and safety tips that target thieves and pickpockets offered by the Metropolitan Police Department!
4. ATM Use Holiday Shopping Safety Tips
No matter how much you want to use electronic payment devices, sometimes you just need to have cash on you. Taking money from the ATM should always require your utmost attention, holiday season or not.
The New York Police Department created a series of useful ATM safety tutorials to help people prevent from becoming ATM victims. In short, this is the least you can do to ensure your ATM protection:
- Pick an ATM inside a bank, a police station, or the mall instead of a random one in the street.
- Keep an eye out for people lurking around the ATM and do not approach the machine if you see suspicious activity around it. Always stay alert!
- Only withdraw the exact amount of cash you need for your shopping (this can help keep you from overspending too).
- Take the ATM receipt with you and throw it away in a bin far from the ATM.
- Do not let anyone glimpse at your PIN or the amount of cash you are withdrawing.
- Put your money somewhere safe immediately after picking it up (your front pocket, for instance).
- Always place your card safely after you’ve finished using the ATM. In case you cannot find your card, immediately call your bank and take action.
5. Online Holiday Shopping Safety Tips
We have to address this issue, as more and more people prefer the comfort and efficiency of online shopping, either for gifts or for holiday groceries. You cannot be too careful when it comes to online security shopping all year long. It is true, however, that online fraud spikes during any holiday season. Here are some things to know:
- Only shop from websites you trust and have used before.;
- Read the link carefully – phishing is a hugely popular scam this time of year, mainly because people are in a hurry, expect to receive discounts from major retailers or shopping websites, and are prone to offer their personal information to finish the gift shopping session faster.
- Never open links from sources you do not know or haven’t seen before. These may lead to insecure sites.
- Before entering any information whatsoever, check out the business itself. Remember to do this if you’ve found some items of interest on an unfamiliar website).
- Never use a public Wi-Fi when you shop online. Instead, do it from the comfort and security of your home and of your home network. You can also use a VPN for extra protection.
- Keep your eyes peeled for email and even social media scams. They come in thousands this time of the year, all promising too-good-to-be-true discounts and buyer advantages.
- Check the websites’ security level – the padlock in the URL bar means you are navigating a secure site, for example.
- Pay attention to what details a shopping cart asks of you – no valid online store needs your Social Security Number to buy anything.
- In case you fell prey to an online scam, close the card account associated with it, and contact the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, as they have an identity theft recovery plan.
Make a List, Be Ready for Safe Shopping
We hope this list of holiday shopping safety tips will be useful to you and your loved ones both this time of year and in the long run as well. Remember to call 911 if you are the victim of pickpocketing, burglary, or other felonies. Also, get informed and find out more about the authorities able to tackle issues such as card fraud or identity theft.
🌟🎁🎊 All of us at PRO Best Reviews are wishing you the safest, best holidays! 🎉🎁🎆