Officer Friendly says, “Don’t let the Grinch get you!”

December 7, 2007 | Karin's Blog | 17 comments

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” goes the holiday tune. It can also be a time of great loss and disappointment if you’re not careful. Believe it or not, there is a whole army of folks that will spend the entire holiday season preying upon shoppers, donation collectors and merry gentlemen. So, rest thee not!

Here are a couple of tips to keep you and your loved one’s from dismay.

1) Always be aware of your surroundings. Take the time to frequently look around. Do you keep seeing the same guy or gal shopping around you but with free and empty hands? Thieves will stalk from a safe yet close distance.

2) Don’t flash a wad of cash. Shuffle through your cash while it’s still in your purse. Keep cash in several places on your person so that no one can get it all in one motion. Keep some in your wallet, some in a pants pocket.

3) Don’t leave your purse unzipped. You’re just asking for someone to stand behind you and take a dip into it.

4) Keep your purse in front of you. Many gals like to carry their purse by its strap while it dangles around their knees. Even the most inexperienced thief can grab this from you while on the run. Your arm fly’s up in the air, you feel a slight tug and whoosh, it’s gone. Over the shoulder is not enough either. It may not be fashionable but it is much safer to sling it over your head and across your chest, resting just in front of your arm.

5) Don’t over load yourself with packages. Make several trips to the car if necessary to safely deposit packages in a locked trunk, not on display in the back seat. If you own an SUV or van, think ahead and take a blanket with you to throw over packages locked in the car.

6) Never set down package/bags in order to look at something. A certain romance writer I know once did this while holiday shopping and actually forgot to pick them up upon leaving the store. We get so frazzled holiday shopping and the malls are packed and we just want to get home and it’s easy to forget. In this case, a store employee picked up the bags. NO, she didn’t hold them for us, she took them next store to Macy’s and returned them for a full refund! Officer Friendly completed his investigation before the other cops arrived and this young lady was not going to have a Merry Christmas.

7) Leave your house looking occupied. First and foremost, always, always, always lock your doors and all windows including those on the second floor. If during the holidays you have outside lights on or a lighted Christmas tree in the front window, turn them on even when not at home. It’s a dead give away that no one is home when all is left dark. Leave other inside lights on. Nothing big, just one on the first floor and one on the second floor, visible from the front of the house to suggest you are in.

8) Using your mail box. Never, never, never place anything with cash or checks in your mail box for pick up by the mailman. That raised red flag tells a thief you have out going mail and at this time of year especially, that could mean cash or checks that he can wash and rewrite.

Scams to watch for…

Here are a couple of scams the bad guys will be pulling this holiday season: You walk out to your car and find the windshield covered in paper fliers. You place your packages in the car, you might even start it to warm it up and then, while you are cleaning up all those fliers… your car gets stolen or you get knocked to the ground and your property gets taken.

As you walk to your car you are approached by more than one person who block your path and ask for directions. As you stop to help, one of these crooks will move behind you and a second later rip you off.

A car pulls up along side of you as you are stopped in traffic and the occupant motions for you to roll down your window. You can see he/she is saying, “Hey, it’s me, remember me?” While you roll down the window one or more other guys is walking up on your vehicle from behind. You’re distracted, your window is down, exposing you, and this guy is now yanking you out and taking your car.

If while shopping, anyone should happen to bump into you, immediately check for your wallet or purse. In your entire life how many times has someone actually bumped into you? It seems innocent enough but in reality it rarely happens unless you’re getting your pocket or purse picked. If this happens, I also recommend turning in the direction of the bumper so that you might not loose them in the crowd.

Hey, I’m not trying to scare you. This stuff happens and I don’t want for anyone to become a victim. Be smart, think ahead and trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right there is a reason, don’t just dismiss it.

So, what can you add to this list? What costly mistakes have you or someone you know made while holiday shopping? Oh yeah, have a very merry Christmas.


  1. B.E. Sanderson

    Never leave your child in a shopping cart unattended. It only takes a minute in a crowded store for an abductor to roll your cart away and out of the store. And forget about your child alerting anyone with his/her protests – too many other kids are screaming and crying already for a real emergency to be noticed before it’s too late.

    For that matter don’t leave your cart unattended with your purse in it. Don’t pay for your stuff and make one last trip to the restrooms.

    And don’t leave things you really want to buy in your cart unattended – even if you haven’t paid for them yet. Recently a friend of mine who manages a store told me they had a sale on some in-demand items, and once the shelves were empty, people were taking things out of other people’s carts inside the store.

  2. B.E. Sanderson

    Oh, and thanks Officer Friendly for reminding everyone to remain alert this holiday season. Stay safe everybody. =o)

  3. J. Carson Black

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in grocery stores and seen purses left in carts, with nobody in sight! Amazing.

    Thanks, Hub – the guy motioning to roll down the window was especially a good one to think about, because it’s so unexpected. You may have single-handedly tamped down crime waves in several U.S. cities and towns—wherever Karin has fans and writer pals.

    Jake, Pretend Cop, now 10-7

  4. Edie

    I was shopping this morning and left the wallet part of my purse–on the outside back of my purse–unzipped. Gulp. I was lucky and nothing was missing.

  5. Amanda

    Be alert at all times, but more so during the holidays. Bad guys and girls know this is a chaotic time and prime time to rip you off.

  6. Hubby

    Jake, 10-7? Out of service? I would have thought you as always 10-8.

    Edieeeee – you were very lucky indeed. It’s those tiny lapses that can be very costly.

    B.E. – an excellant observation and a very common place occurance, anytime of the year.

  7. Poppy

    We were recently notified that someone had been stealing purses in our neighborhood. Apparently women would arrive home and run inside with packages, and while they were gone, even just for a second, someone would steal their purse out of their cars. I was always trained to pull into the garage and shut the door before unlocking my car door. Always seemed extreme, but maybe not.

  8. Poppy

    “In your entire life how many times has someone actually bumped into you?”

    Every day? Of course, it’s always me walking into them.

  9. J. Carson Black

    Hub, after my last haircut, it’s more like 10-79. 😉

  10. Hubby

    J. – sounds like an 11-82, property damage…

    Poppy – great suggestion!

    I have another that I just thought of, being followed home. Frequently check your rearview mirrors after shopping to make sure you are not being followed. If you suspect you are being followed do not drive home but to the local police station. Also, while everyone can dial 911 on their cell phone, it is a better idea to preprogram your phone with the number to the local P.D. dispatch.

  11. Donna

    Thanks for the wondeful advice. I read it and heard my father’s voice in my head. He’s a retired cop and all the time growing up I heard a lot of this advice. Definitely a few new ones, like the rolling down of windows.

    I’m sending this to my grown daughters to read.

    Have a great holiday.


  12. LaDonna

    Thanks for the great advice, Officer Friendly! Ashamed to say I broke a few of those must-have tips yesterday. And I knew better which really burns me. Luckily, I came home with everything all accounted for. My bag unzipped with a water bottle sticking out, and the packages lined on the floor around me while I looked at stuff were the major bloops. I will stop that now! This has opened my eyes…big time.

  13. Kara Dunn

    Thanks so much to Officer Friendly. I know it’s not funny Karin, but I couldn’t help laugh at the audacity of the young woman who took your packages and returned your stuff. That took some brass nuggets. (Though I’m sure they were rolling by the time Hubby finished with her.)

    Thanks for the tips. Never thought of being followed… but certainly will pay attention now!

  14. Heather W

    Thought of one today, not holiday-related but still relevant… when filling up the car with gas, don’t leave your purse on the front seat and the doors unlocked. I take my keys with me and lock all doors when I fill up, but I see so many people who don’t and it’s dangerous!


  15. Anna Louise Lucia

    Thank heaven I’ve never had my purse stolen while shopping… or anything else to that matter, but I did come back to my car after climbing a mountain and find someone had thrown a rock through the window and stolen my stereo.

    I didn’t mind so much… except I was soaked to the skin, and my warm, dry change of clothes on the back seat of the car was now sitting in the patch of rain blown in from the window!

    That was the coldest drive to the police station, with the window gone, in soaked clothes, in the pouring rain… *shiver*

    I still have the rock. It’s kind of a reminder. 😉

  16. Hubby

    You’ve all added something worth while to this blog and I’m sure many others will benefit from it. Just be aware of your surroundings, act purposeful, don’t make yourself a victim and trust your instincts.

    Merry Christmas!

  17. Cheryel Hutton

    And these are just more reasons I would like to hide in my cave until it’s all over.

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