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How to Stay Safe Shopping in Person or Online

Officials warn shoppers to take precautions on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and while doing other holiday shopping.

The day after Thanksgiving is a huge day for retailers and shoppers, but it also presents many opportunities to would-be criminals.

With the holiday shopping season upon us, law enforcement agencies are offering tips to those planning on hitting the retailers around town or online. 

Sacramento County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Jason Ramos offered these tips, and encouraged shoppers to be cautious:

  • "Whenever possible, shop during the daylight hours. If it’s necessary to go out at night, shop with a friend or family member whenever possible. Generally speaking, there is safety in numbers. 
  • "If women must carry a purse, wear it slung over the neck and shoulder, making it more difficult for someone to grab just off of one shoulder and run away with.
  • "If valuables, purchases, etc. need to be kept in a vehicle during shopping trips, keep them in the trunk, rather than visible through windows in the passenger areas of cars. In SUVs, bring a blanket or something else to cover them up if they must remain in there for any time.
  • "Keep a copy of all credit card numbers at home, as well as the customer service numbers for each card. In the event of credit card theft, notify the companies IMMEDIATELY.
  • "Stay alert to your surroundings!! This sounds simple enough, but be especially wary of panhandlers or other solicitors that approach you asking for handouts, or just making conversation. This can often be a ruse, and some of them work together (one will distract you, and the other will come up and target you for theft or assault). Then the one who initially contacted you will act as if they have no relation to the other, but in reality they may be working together."

And the following tips for safe in-person shopping come from the Elk Grove Police Department:

  • Keep packages and other valuables in the car trunk and out of sight.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Pay for purchases with a check or credit card.
  • Carry a purse under your arm with the strap across your body.
  • Put wallets in an inside pocket of your jacket or front pants pocket. 
  • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • If shopping after dark, shop with a friend if possible.  
  • Always park your car in a well-lit area.
  • Always check the interior of your car before you unlock the door to get in.
  • Lock your car doors and windows even if you are only gone for a few minutes.

The National Crime Prevention Council also cautions against buying more items than you can carry, warns shoppers to save all their receipts and suggests having your keys in hand when approaching your car.

For those who opt to avoid the crowds and purchase holiday gifts online, the FBI offered these tips last year:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Always run a virus scan on attachment before opening.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.
  • Log on directly to the official Web site for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that the e-mail is genuine.
  • If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.

What do you do to keep your holiday shopping trips safe? Tell us in the comments section below.

Joe Knows November 24, 2012 at 05:06 AM
How about the Patch Staff consistently posting the Dixon Police Log? That would help us stay safe.

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