“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.