The next two weeks are the busiest "in person" shopping weeks of the year. Converging upon the brick and mortar stores are last minute shoppers, bargain hunters, and the days-after-Xmas-buying-for-me spenders.
The hustle and bustle both before and after the holidays brings out many a shopping reveler. Sadly, it also brings out the bad guys scanning the happy crowds for a quick score with your credit card, wallet, purse, or person. While no one wants to be a Grinch, a little precaution goes a long way in protecting yourself from potential problems.
Use these easy safety tips to keep you safe this holiday season and beyond.
1. Carry your purse close to your body and zipped closed at all times. Keep it tucked under your arm or across the front of your body. Do not use a backpack style bag in a busy shopping environment. Keeping a bag zipped shut seems an obvious precaution; however, look around and you will see women with their bags wide open. I saw an unzipped purse on the floor in Lord & Taylor today and the owner was browsing two racks away!
2. Before leaving home, remove information you do NOT need from your purse or wallet, e.g., Social Security Card, check register with full check book, credit cards you won't be using on this trip.
3. Distribute frequently used items...Put your tissues, lip balm, and mints in a pocket so you won't have to open and close your purse for these items when needed.
4. When at the register: Do not put your wallet on the counter, instead keep it in your hand. When the transaction is done, immediately return your cash or credit card and zip it away. Do not slip your credit card into your back pocket because you are "just going over to the other department." Pickpockets select their victims after watching and assessing the level of ease or difficulty of a theft. Make it hard for them.
5. Thumbs Up: When you use a credit card, keep a large portion of the number covered with your thumb. This prevents prying eyes, and cameras, from getting your name and credit card number without physically stealing it.
Also, if you aren't the one "swiping" the card (no pun intended) to make the purchase, be sure to check that you get your own card back if more than one transaction at a register is taking place. Often, store clerks who share a work space put the cards on top of the register while they are preparing the purchases; it is an easy mistake to swap the cards when returning them to the customers.
6. Bags, Bags, Bags: Add up the number of bags you are carrying. With a quick count you know you have all of your purchases + your purse (counts as 1 bag). This is especially handy if you "check" your bags with a store concierge or coat check (never check your purse).
Do not put the purchase receipts into the shopping bags, keep them separate. If you lose one, you may need proof you bought it; but, if the receipt is gone with the bag, you are out of luck.
7. Parking Lot Hints: Always try to leave a mall with a group if you are shopping alone. If you met up with a friend, walk to the nearest car and drive to the other one.
If you have a lot of packages, do not put them into the trunk and return to the mall or shopping area. Take the time to move the car or come back another day. It's easy to pop a trunk lock for someone who is in that line of work.
Some shopping destinations offer valet parking. This may be convenient, but be sure to check the car when the valet brings it to you. The cars are often left unlocked in the valet lot allowing easy entry to the car cabin and trunk. Even though there may be a guy in the valet lot watching the cars, better to be safe than sorry.
8. Be Aware: If something or someone seems "off" to you, trust your gut, it is never wrong. Take the necessary steps to ensure your safety.
It pains me to write an article on staying safe while you shop this holiday season, but it is the reality of the world we live in today. Don't be scared, be SMART! If you are Cyber shopping this season, check out HWA's Ten Terrific Tips for safe shopping on the web.
May you and yours be safe today and every day! Got a safety tip? A "do or don't" to share that can help another woman? Tell us about it.