While most of us associate this time of the year with either good will toward our fellow men or the joy of giving and receiving gifts, there are those who see the Holiday Season as an opportunity to take what someone else has worked hard for.
First, let’s be clear: Bad guys are out and about year-round, but it’s during this time that they know people have their minds on other things and not on what is important, safeguarding themselves. Here are a few tips that may help keep you from becoming a victim:
1. When keeping packages in your car, place them in the trunk or in an enclosed area and out of sight. Nothing says “steal me” more than a bag from a high-end electronics store on the front passenger seat.
2. This time of year sees us participating in that ever-so-enjoyable parking lot ballet for a space close to the door. That space is not only more convenient but safer for you and your valuables. There aren’t many people close enough to pay attention to a couple of suspicious lads trying the doors of a car parked way at the bottom of the lot. Consider giving yourself those few extra minutes to find a spot close to the door or at least under bright light.
3. Ladies, consider carrying your purse or handbag under your winter coat. A thief or purse snatcher can’t steal what he can’t see. If you carry your handbag outside of your coat, consider a purse with a sturdy strap and a good zipper closure and KEEP IT CLOSED. A running bad guy needs only a second to get your cash, credit cards, ID, etc.
4. Never, never, ever leave your purse unattended in the seat of the shopping cart. Walk through any supermarket and you will inevitably see a woman not only leave her purse open and in the seat of the cart but turn her back on it or walk away to retrieve an item. Remember, it only takes a second.
5. Men, consider carrying your wallet in your front pants pocket or inside coat pocket.
6. When using your card at the ATM or the checkout, block the keypad with your body or free hand to keep someone behind or beside you from getting your PIN number. A favorite scam of thieves is using a cell phone camera to take a picture of the numbers on the front of a credit card while memorizing the PIN as it is entered. They now have all they need to go shopping courtesy of the victim.
7. When walking in the mall or in the store parking lots, avoid being too encumbered. Someone weighed down with lots of packages makes a good victim.
8. After making your purchase, never keep the receipt in the bag. If your purchase is lost or stolen, so is your proof of buying that item along with your credit card information in some cases.
9. Most credit card data capture devices are now set up so that they do not print your card number on the receipt. Some merchants, however, still use older machines that print out the entire card number. Notorious for this are many restaurants, especially Chinese eateries. If the “Merchant Copy” has your credit card number printed on it, never leave it unattended at the table when you leave.
10. Lastly, know the store’s return and gift card policies. Some places charge a hefty restocking fee on items returned. Also, that $50 gift card may only be worth $35 six months from now. Although these things may not be crimes, if you get stung, they sure will feel like it!