The holiday season is here and everyone is out shopping, going to parties, and running errands. During the busy holidays, you may have your arms filled with presents and your wallet stuffed with credit cards and cash. But that can be a bad recipe. The holidays bring ugly sweaters and bad fruitcakes as well as thieves.
Here are some tips to help keep you safe from thieves while you are out celebrating the holidays.
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Keep Your Car Locked and Possessions Out of Sight
While it feels good to load up the car with all those holiday gifts, if they are left out in the open where they can be seen by passersby, your car will become a likely target for thieves.
Make sure all packages are locked in your trunk or out of view. This includes your valuables such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, purses, briefcases, backpacks, cameras, etc. Thieves won’t waste their time breaking into a car that looks empty.
To help prevent your vehicle from being stolen, always lock your car and use anti-theft devices. And although it’s cold, never leave your vehicle running while you run inside your home or a store—even if for only a minute or two. That’s easy pickings for a car thief.
Staying Safe in the Mall Parking Lot
Although malls and parking garages are generally safe places with a lot of lighting, security, and surveillance cameras, you should be cautious. They remain one of the prime places for thefts and assaults.
Robbers and assailants count on shoppers distracted by piles of packages not paying much attention to possible dangers. Here are a few preventable steps to take while walking to and from your car:
- As a general rule, avoid carrying large amounts of cash pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.
- When parking, choose the most visible parking spot you can find. Stay away from spots near dumpsters, bushes, and vans. Look for spaces that are well lit and have a clear line of sight from your car to the exit.
- Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.
- Don’t walk between vehicles. Walk up the aisles of parked vehicles. Muggers are less likely to attack if you can readily be seen
- If you see someone just standing around who makes you feel uncomfortable, back to the mall or parking lot attendant. Ask them to escort you to your vehicle
- Look around before you start piling your packages into your vehicle trunk. Assailants take advantage of people who have tunnel vision.
- Shopping with kids? Teach them to to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.
Street Shopping Tips
You may be in the city or town doing shopping or going out to eat. Here are some tips to avoid being the victim of street crimes:
- Try not to walk alone, there is strength in numbers. This is especially important at night. Also, always keep a distance between yourself and strangers.
- Hold your purse tightly and close to your body. Keep your wallet in your front or buttoned pocket.
- Beware of dangerous places or conditions such as poorly lit streets. Also avoid shortcuts through parks, alleys, and driveways. It might take a little longer, but always travel on main roads and well-lit streets.
- Avoid being stopped by individuals and panhandlers. Just keep walking. Never give out personal information to strangers.
- Carry a whistle, battery operated alarm or other sounding device so you can signal for help should the need arise.
Take Precautions Against Pickpockets
Pickpockets work year-round, but they love the holiday season. An experienced pickpocket dresses like an average person, so don’t think you’ll be able to recognize them. They try to blend into a crowd to eliminate detection and make it easier to get away.
Pickpockets work just as well at night as they do during the day. And they work in crowds just as easily as “accidentally” bumping into an unsuspecting victim alone on a sidewalk.
Some pickpockets work alone, while others work in teams of two or three. Often, the first team member removes the valuables from the unsuspecting victim’s pockets. He or she then passes them on to the accomplice who disappears quickly from the area. Or, the accomplice may engage the victim in conversation to distract his or her attention while the pickpocket works.
What can you do to protect yourself? The best defense is to eliminate the opportunity of becoming a victim. Below are some tips from the Washington, DC police department who help protect millions of tourists and shoppers each year.
Tips for Men
- Pickpockets like to target back trouser pockets, and suitcoat and sports jacket pockets. A pickpocket generally avoids front trouser pockets, and especially buttoned or zippered pockets.
- If you have to carry your wallet in an unbuttoned jacket, coat or pants pocket, be sure it holds only what you can afford to lose. Keep large sums of money, credit cards, IDs, in your front pocket or any buttoned or zippered pocket.
- You might want to place a rubber band around your wallet because the rubber band creates friction and rubs against the fabric of your pocket if someone is attempting to remove it without your knowledge.
- The best place for keys is on a chain attached to your clothing.
- Never pat your pocket to see if your wallet is there. This lets a criminal know the exact location of your valuables.
Tips for Women
- Do not carry your wallet in your purse. Conceal it in a buttoned or zippered pocket where it doesn’t show a bulge.
- Use a purse that is difficult to open. A purse with a zipper or snaps is best.
- If you are carrying a shoulder bag, place the strap(s) diagonally across your body, as opposed to carrying it on one shoulder. This keeps the purse in front of you, instead of at your side or behind you. If you are carrying a hand bag, make sure to hold it close to the front of your body, instead of holding it on your wrist or loosely in your hand.
- Never leave your purse unattended on a store counter or in a shopping cart.
There’s no need to be fearful during the festive holiday season, but a little caution and common sense will make sure your holidays stay merry and bright.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
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