Holiday shopping safety tips

This past weekend the holiday shopping season officially got underway. It is a busy time for not just retailers and shoppers, but also thieves.

Car break-ins and purse snatchings pick up this time of year and it is not just the loss of your presents or your money; people can get seriously hurt.

Thieves have no regard for anyone but themselves. Everyone is vulnerable, especially women. That is why it is important to be vigilant when hitting the stores.

When it comes to staying safe while shopping for the holidays, choosing when and where you shop is critical. Lt. Cindy Kilgore from Mishiana Crime Stoppers shares helpful tips on how to stay safe.

- If you are shopping anywhere near nighttime and you are going to be in the store past dark, park closer to the stores. The best case scenario is that you park near a light post so if you come out after dark, you are near a visible, well-lit area.

- Before you get out of your car, make sure you do not leave anything in sight. When you come back, peek inside your car to make sure no one is there.

- Put whatever you bought in the trunk. If you have an SUV or van, take a blanket to cover up your items.

- Always be sure to have your key or key fob out and accessible.

- Travel light. When you go to the store, take only what you need such as a driver's license, a credit card, and a minimal amount of cash.

- If you insist on carrying a full size purse or bag, put it over your shoulder because that makes it a harder target for thieves.

- If you are heading to or from your car and you feel threatened, whatever you do, do not go back to your car. Get back to the store because safety is in numbers. A lot of people make the mistake where they think the car is the safe haven. They run to it and they lock the doors but a window can be broken out easily.

- Absolutely shop with a buddy. If you are going to make it an all day shopping trip and you come out to your car to unload your first armful of goodies, people are going to be out in the parking lot watching for that. Take an opportunity and take little break from shopping. Drive around and maybe get some lunch. Or perhaps drive around to a different parking location altogether before going back in and refilling.

- While it is the season of giving, be wary of panhandlers or solicitors. The thing to remember is the vast majority of them, especially around holiday time, are scammers. If you feel compelled to donate, donate locally. But when you are dealing with these folks that are approaching you on the street, often times they are working with accomplices. What they are waiting for is for you to pull out your wallet, open up and show how much cash you have, and the next thing you know it is snatched out of your hands. If you are accosted by a panhandler, notify the store or mall manager or call police. You may be saving the next person from a hassle or worse.
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- It is best to limit your cash while shopping. These days, more people want to use cash so they do not run up credit card bills. You can always cancel a debit or credit card if it is stolen. Unfortunately, you cannot stop payment on stolen cash. If you insist on using cash, try keeping it in a front pocket.

List of shopping safety tips:

· Carry only what you need (license, credit card, minimal cash)
· Carry it in your pocket, if possible
· Use wristlet, or purse that can be slung across your body
· Always keep car locked
· Have keys in hand, be aware of your surroundings
· Glance inside vehicle before getting in
· Exercise is good, but opt for spot closer to store building, preferably near light
· If you sense danger, don't run to vehicle for safe haven, run back inside store
· Put items in trunk, rather than plain view in car
· If driving van/SUV, you should keep a blanket inside anyway, throw it over your bags to help camouflage
· Extensive shopping; when dropping off packages in car, consider taking a little break and moving your car (suspects will monitor parking lots)

Panhandlers:

· Almost always scammers
· Often work with accomplices
· "Just say no", practice your response so you're ready
· Your purse may get snatched as you open it to get money·

If you feel compelled to donate, give to a local charity and refer panhandler toward proper source for help
· Notify store/mall manager, or call police


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