Playing It Safe While Shopping For The Holidays - By: Teresa Bernard

The winter holiday season is fast approaching and as always it's a very busy time of year for everyone, especially for criminals. A lot of people are distracted by all the little details of their holiday plans and the shopping that lays ahead of them. Many shoppers are out and about running errands, carrying more money and packages than during other times of the year. Perhaps more so than at other times of the year. Regrettably criminals will also be out and about looking for their next easy mark. This is certainly not the time to let your guard down. Being the unfortunate prey of crime can quickly wreck your holiday mood.

The FBI reports that criminal activity increases during December. Crimes such as burglaries, muggings, car thefts, robberies, pick pocketing, credit card scams, etc. Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, remember to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Criminals will often target those who are distracted and aren't paying attention.

When you head out to the shopping malls after your Thanksgiving feast keep the following safety tips in mind. Remember this advice is helpful year round as well.


Staying safe while shopping for the holiday can be a bit trying at times. Mainly because there are fewer daylight hours in the day at this season of the year. Often shoppers arrive at a mall when it is day and find that it has gotten dark outside by the time they are ready to leave. They are not thinking about their safety in the dark and pay little attention to where they park.

Parking lots fill up quickly this time of year which makes it harder to find a decent spot. Try to find one that is in a well-lit area with lots of foot traffic. Don't park in secluded areas if you can help it. Once your car is parked, familiarize yourself with its location. Notice any row numbers, etc., so you can easily find it upon your return. Be sure to lock your car when you leave.

Take a companion along when you shop. Using the buddy system reduces your chances of being mugged or attacked. If you are shopping alone, consider walking near other shoppers in the parking lot. Walk in well-lit areas and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid areas where people are loitering. Walk with a purpose and authority in your stride.


While shopping inside it is a good idea to avoid dark hallways and stockrooms, especially at closing time. Don't use a bathroom facility that is located in a back passageway. It is best to use one near the food court or other high traffic area of the mall.

Be constantly guarded and vigilant as you move through crowds. Look out for people you do not know who deliberately bumps, jostles or gets too close as these may be diversions for pickpockets who try to steal your wallet. While you are at it, you might want to keep a close eye on your shipping bags and other personal property too. Carry your purse firmly near your body and never leave it unattended in the shopping cart. Do not keep your wallet, credit cards or cash in your back pocket or a backpack. These are places pickpockets find it easy to get at without being noticed. Keep them in your front pockets instead.

Don't carry large amounts of cash with you. Try to make your purchases using a personal check, credit card, or ATM card if you can. At the times when you do pay using cash, pull out only what you need. Keep the rest of your cash hidden away so bystanders can see how much you are carrying. Regardless of the time of year, it is never a good idea to carry large amounts of cash with you. Save your most expensive purchases for last, so you can head straight home afterward.

When you are ready to go back to your car, don't be overloaded with packages. Combine as many of them as you can into fewer packages or make several trips to your car. Carrying too many packages will hinder your view and you won't be able to move quickly to avoid being attacked.

Always have your car keys ready to avert having to search for them in your purse or pocket when you reach your vehicle. Look over your shoulder periodically to make sure you are not being followed back to your car. As you approach your car, do not use the auto unlock mode on your key fob from too far a distance. By doing this, the flashing lights on the vehicle are advertising to a would-be assailant which vehicle is yours. He could race ahead and then be waiting for you at the car. Instead, wait until just before you get to there, check to make sure you are not being followed, then unlock the doors. When you reach your car it is a good idea to scan the interior BEFORE getting in to make sure no one is hiding inside.

It is a good idea to place your packages inside your trunk so they are out of sight. Never leave them in plain view where someone would be tempted to smash your windows and steal your packages while you are away from your car.

When you get into your vehicle lock your doors immediately and drive off. {Don't wait around sitting there to check off your shopping list, jot purchases down in your checkbook ledger or whatever it is that may cause you to delay your departure.|Wait until later to check off your list or scribble purchases into your check

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