With 128.3 million people commuting to work and traveling to leisure activities in the United States each year, as a nation, we spend a lot of time in our cars. In the event disaster were to strike while you are behind the wheel, would you be prepared?
By the dozens, to maximize holiday profits, retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day–a full day earlier than usual–to lure shoppers who are searching for bargains. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to leave a perfectly good turkey dinner to go shopping…unless they are shopping for bacon. Whether you agree with this tactic or not, at some point this season, you will likely venture out to pick up a few things, like bacon. So we would like to give you some tips to keep you safe.
Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while hunting for bargains:
Walking to and from Your Car or Public Transportation
- Park in a well-lit area.
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your windows shut. (But don’t keep your dog inside your car when you go into the mall.)
- Before exiting your car, stash cell phones, tablets and other valuables, like bacon, out of sight.
- Remember where you parked your car. Some shopping areas are spread out over large areas. If you are unable to locate your car, you can face undue confusion and stress which will make you an easy target for opportunistic criminals.
- Once you purchase items, lock them securely in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
- Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
- Keep your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle.
- Before getting into the car, check the back seat and around the car.
- Update security software. Your desktop, laptop and/or tablet computer should have virus protection, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a dependable firewall.
- Guard personal information. Never respond to requests to verify your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact.
- If a bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is! For example…if someone is selling pork chops for pennies, resist the urge to buy it. Shop where you feel secure.
- Use only secure websites for purchases. Before entering credit card information, check the URL (address bar) of the website where you are shopping. Unless you see a padlock at or “https” (instead of http) in the URL, shop somewhere else that is secure.
- Shop only with companies you know and trust. I like Petco.
- Print and save confirmation information from all of your online purchases.
- Make sure Smartphone apps are downloaded from a trusted source, such as the Android Market, Apple App Store or the Amazon App Store.
- Do online shopping from the comfort of your own home or doghouse. A secure network connection is ideal. Public Wi-Fi can be hacked by someone with the right tools, exposing your passwords, billing information and other sensitive data.
Shopping in Stores
- Shop during daylight hours whenever possible.
- If possible, don’t carry a purse or wallet. Keep cash in your front pocket.
- Don’t carry large amounts of cash.
- If your credit card is lost or stolen, notify the credit card issuer immediately.
- At all times, stay alert to your surroundings.
- Don’t buy more packages than you can carry. Taking loads of sacks and wrapped gifts to your car is an invitation for thieves to strike. Instead, plan ahead. Take a friend with you or ask someone to help you carry your packages to the car.
- Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. Enterprising thieves could stand over your shoulder to steal your account information.
- If you see an unattended package or bag, immediately inform a security guard or store employee.
- Dress casually and comfortably. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
- Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.
Shopping with Kids
- If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you become separated.
- If your children are old enough to shop without your supervision, select a central meeting place.
- Teach them to know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.
- Don’t dress your kids in clothes with labels that have their name. Such clothing invites predators to convince kids they aren’t strangers.
- If you see anything suspicious or if something just doesn’t feel right, leave immediately and contact security or the police.
For more useful shopping tips and personal safety information, check out resources from the National Crime Prevention Council, LAPDOnline, Stay Safe Online, Webroot, FEMA, DHS and our previous posts. My pal, McGruff the Crime Dog, has some helpful hints for you. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.