The holiday season is undoubtedly the most wonderful time of the year, with people in a festive mood out and about trying to get their shopping done. The air crackles with excitement and in the midst of the bustling environment; it is understandable why most remain oblivious to the dangers lurking around them. Unfortunately, the holiday season also brings along a spate of accidents and opportunity crimes. So, this year while you go about picking up all the goodies that will go under the tree, use these tips to be safe and make this a truly Merry Christmas.
What are crimes of opportunity?
These are spontaneous unlawful acts that are not premeditated; the crime occurs when the opportunity presents itself. For instance, a thief spots a car full of shopping bags in an isolated parking lot and decides to break into the vehicle. Since the infraction is not planned when things go awry, like the owner of the vehicle showing up, the situation can quickly take a turn for the worse. So, it is crucial to take precautionary measures against such acts.
Safety and shopping can go together!
Here are some tips that will help from inadvertently creating and walking into risky situations:
- Try to get all your shopping done in daylight hours. If you must shop after sundown, take a friend or family member along. The more people you have along, the lower will be the risk of being targeted.
- Do not wear expensive jewelry or carry too much cash with you which may attract unwanted attention.
- While approaching your vehicle, visually scan to see if there is somebody hiding underneath the car. There have been cases in which assailants have slashed the victim’s leg, so that the person cannot run or fight back.
- Once near your car, check the back seat and as soon as you get in, lock the doors even before you put the key in ignition
- When shopping make several trips to the car to deposit your purchase in the vehicle. This way, you won’t be walking around with too many bags.
- Always store your purchases in the trunk as opposed to on the backseat.
- Make a mental note of the people around you and scan the vicinity of your car as you walk to it. People do not hang around in parking lots next to locked vehicles, particularly if they are not carrying any shopping bags themselves. If you see anything suspicious, return to the store at once.
- Always let a friend or family know where you are going and when you will get back.
- Never buy anything from unlicensed sellers in parking lots. Not only do you stand to be sold counterfeit and stolen items but also this is usually the bait for mugging.
- Keep your electronic gadgets such as laptops, cell phones, tablets and satellite radios in the trunk of the car and away from plainview.
- Do not attempt to investigate suspicious activity in your own; instead simply call mall security or dial 911.
- Keep your purses and bags snapped closed.
- If using your debit card, hold it close to your body in such a way that the card number cannot be photographed with a cell phone.
- Keep young children in the stroller or the shopping cart at all times.
- If you have older kids along, plan on what is to be done if the family gets separated during shopping.
- While going out, ensure that your cell phone is charged and there are no problems with your car.
- Always park in a well lit area.
- Keep your cell phone on your person instead of in your purse.
- Be confident and make eye contact when walking and shopping; this will usually prove to be a deterrent for most attackers.
Safe online shopping
Online safety is just as important as offline safety since nearly 50% of all purchases are expected to be made through e-Retailers this year. Although there may be no physical harm involved in online crime, do not underestimate the damage that online burglars can wreak on your finances. A few preventative steps that you can take include:
- Never use a link to an online retailer that you have received through mail. Phishing scams are the easiest and most effective way to target hapless online shoppers. The page that you are taken to will be an exact replica of that of a retailer, but it is actually designed to capture financial information from buyers.
- When shopping online, use a search engine to find the homepage of a retailer and then visit their website.
- If a deal is too good to be true, it may not be true. Always check for prices from multiple retailers. If some website is claiming to sell a particular item for 1/10th its cost, this should be a red flag.
- Always read the fine print when shopping online. Learn about what you are agreeing to before you sign up for a service. A lot of online agencies will charge recurring fees.
- Never store credit card information on ecommerce sites.
- It is best to shop from home instead of using a public WiFi network.
- Password your gadgets including your mobile devices if you intend to use them for shopping.