A quick survey:
How do you recover from Thanksgiving?
□ I hit the couch
□ I hit the Black Friday sales
If you answered “I hit the sales,” read on. Couch potatoes, as you were.
Black Friday traditionally signals the start of holiday shopping and is legendary for the Black Friday deals and the crowds that pursue them. Unfortunately, it’s also an ideal time for thieves: pickpockets, car burglars, cyber-scammers and straight-up robbers.
NerdWallet has done a little research on how you can stay safe while on the hunt for those Black Friday deals, and narrowed it down to these top seven tips:
Shop with friends
It is true that there is safety in numbers. If you shop with a group, two can go get the car while the others wait by the store with the packages. A thug is less likely to strike a group, and multiple sets of eyes provide an extra layer of security.
Ditch the purse or wallet
If you can, just carry your ID and a debit or credit card in a front pocket when you shop. Ladies, if you must carry a purse, hold it close to you and make sure it’s closed. Avoid setting your purse or wallet down for any reason. Guys, put the wallet in your front pocket to keep it safe from pickpockets.
Avoid carrying a lot of cash
When someone takes your cash, you can’t replace it. However, if someone gets your debit or credit card, there’s a window of opportunity to stop them from using the card, and you won’t be liable for any purchases made by a thief if you report them promptly. If you’re worried about running up a credit card bill, use your card responsibly. Designate one low limit credit card for shopping and pay it off promptly. This also goes for shopping online.
You should generally use debit instead of credit since it keeps you from spending more than you have. However, if you use a debit card, you need to be extra careful. Carelessness could give hackers an opportunity to access to your bank account.
It seems like a simple thing, right? But it’s not that easy to do if you’re wrangling several bags of items from the mall door to your vehicle. Use a rolling shopping basket if possible, and get your keys out before you leave the store to walk to your car. If someone you don’t know approaches you, try not to engage them, no matter how harmless they appear. If you have a key fob for car entry, “accidentally” set off your car’s panic alarm if you are frightened by someone. If they are up to no good, it will likely scare them off and attract attention.
If you’re shopping late at night or at the crack of dawn, try to park by a light, and check the back seat of your car before getting in. If you are truly nervous about getting to your car, ask someone from the store or mall security to escort you.
Watch for shoulder-surfers
Did you know that, in 87% of identity thefts, the initial loss of personal information does not occur online? If you are waiting with your checkbook or credit card fully visible, an enterprising thief can grab your information just by looking over your shoulder. Have your payment method handy, but keep it obscured from prying eyes. If you are at an ATM, be conscious of who’s behind you. Are they invading your space? They may be trying to steal your PIN. ATM etiquette dictates the next in line keep a respectable distance, wouldn’t you say?
Keep track of receipts
Save your holiday receipts and order confirmations in a folder and compare them to your credit card bill or bank statement. Sometimes thieves start with small charges that you may not realize are fraudulent to see how carefully you monitor your credit card activity. If you are shopping online, Identity Hawk has some helpful safety tips here.
Stow it, don’t show it
This is a popular holiday catchphrase for police. Thieves are an opportunistic lot. If you store all your packages in the trunk, it reduces the likelihood of anyone breaking into your car. If you are going to leave your purse or wallet in the trunk, don’t wait to put it there when you get to the mall. That’s the sort of opportunity thieves watch for. To take that advice one step further, don’t leave the mall, put packages in your car and then go back inside. If you have to do that, think about moving the car, too. Anyone watching will think you’re leaving for good.
So, to sum up: Yes, there are people out there who would like to ruin your holiday. But by exercising some common sense and being on your toes, you can keep that from happening. Safe shopping, everyone!
Shopping Security image courtesy of Shutterstock.