Holiday shopping seems to start earlier every year...and that is not only for honest citizens. Like the Grinch, criminals are already making plans to steal your holiday joy. Whether you choose to shop in person or online, consider the consequences of your choices so you have a safe and enjoyable season.
Begin by not advertising your shopping plans or posting your current purchases on social media. Instead, call or text your friends and family to invite them to go shopping or to tell them about your purchases. Remember, there is safety in numbers so shopping with others is best. However, do not let your cell phone be a distraction while you are out and about.
Only carry the credit cards you will be using as well as any cash you may need. Leave all other documents, cards, etc., in a safe place at home. Consider keeping your cards and money in a front pocket instead of a purse that can be snatched from you or that you might leave in a shopping cart. If you must carry a purse, use one that crosses over your chest to deter thieves. Men should also keep their wallets in a front or zippered pocket to avoid being pick-pocketed.
When you arrive at the store, park in well-lit, well-travelled areas and keep valuables out of sight. While shopping, avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps and not appear vulnerable. When storing your purchases in the vehicle, keep them out of sight. If you plan to continue shopping, consider moving your vehicle to a different location. This will deter any thieves, who may have been watching you, from breaking into your vehicle and stealing your packages.
While you are shopping online, shop only at trusted websites. Use your credit cards as they are more secure than debit cards for online shopping. Make sure the website is secure by looking for the icon of a locked padlock which typically appears in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser or next to the URL in the address bar. Another way to tell you are on a secure site is to look for the "s" in https:// (instead of just http://). You will also want to avoid using public computers and Wi-Fi hotspots when purchasing your holiday gifts. If you must use a public Wi-Fi hotspot, privatize your Wi-Fi by installing hotspot shields on your laptop or tablet.
Whether you shop online or in the store, monitor your credit card, debit card, and checking account statements on a regular basis to ensure there are no fraudulent charges. If you do notice irregular charges, report them to the bank and/or credit card company immediately.
Hopefully, incorporating these choices into your holiday shopping game plan will result in a safe and happy holiday shopping season!