Keeping safe while holiday shopping

All of the holidays and days off of work and school at the end of December tend to stir up wonderful emotions and goodwill among people. The warmth of home in the midst of cold winds (or, if you’re from Southern California, the warmth of home in the midst of a mildly cool breeze) can create a feeling of coziness that is just part of how the season makes many of us feel.

But of course there are also trips out and about for those of you who will be shopping today, and attempting some bargain shopping or trying to return gifts tomorrow and in the run up to the new year. Jumping in the car for a quick jaunt to the store for eggnog refills or to haul a carload of ugly sweaters to exchange for brand name electronics will be, statistically, more dangerous than normal.

Among the many reasons for this, most of which will sound familiar to our regular readers, are:

  • An increase in dark driving hours due to shorter days
  • An increase in inclement weather and hazardous road conditions
  • A rise in the incidence of impaired drivers on the road

However, it’s also important to know that some of the increased danger at this time of year is due to criminal activity involving the theft of valuable goods at a time when most of us are less on our guard than normal.

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, here are some simple tips and things to be aware of that can help you keep safety in mind:

  • Do not buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.
  • Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.
  • Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.
  • Deter pickpockets. Carry your belongings close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
  • Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
  • Be especially vigilant if you are shopping with children. Make a plan in case you are separated from each other, by selecting a central meeting place.

Remember, this is the time of year that criminals do their shopping, too. Don’t let yourself become their Santa Claus.

Keep safe, and have a happy holiday break.

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