QUEENSTOWN — The day after Thanksgiving is more than just a day to digest yesterday’s feast. It is also the first official day of the holiday shopping season known as Black Friday.
Black Friday is associated with bargains, early store hours and holiday shopping. While many savvy shoppers and bargain-hunters look forward to the thrill of shopping on Black Friday, thieves also anticipate this busy season as they look to turn unaware shoppers into victims.
In an effort to effectively prepare and ensure the safety of shoppers, the Queen Anne’s County’s Sheriff’s Office, Queenstown Premium Outlets’ security and the National Crime Prevention Council provide the following safety tips for Black Friday and this year’s holiday shopping.
Shopping in Stores
If you plan on buying more than you can easily carry, plan ahead by taking a friend with you or asking a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.
Save all receipts. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.
Don’t flash the cash. Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as one-time, multi-use gift cards or money orders. Wait until asked by a cashier before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.
Carry a purse or shoulder bag close to your body, not dangling by straps. Put a wallet in an inside pocket of your coat or front pants pocket.
Walking to and
From Your Car
Always walk and park in well-lit areas. Park close to the entrance of the store or mall, if possible. Even outside of the mall, stick to well-lit, well-traveled streets, walkways and parking areas for walking and parking.
Don’t talk on a cell phone when walking through parking lots and streets. Your phone conversation is a distraction that makes you vulnerable. Keep your full attention on your surroundings. Also, your cell phone itself can be a tempting target to thieves.
If you are ready to leave a shopping center and feel uneasy about entering the parking lot or garage by yourself, stay inside and ask for a security escort.
Don’t fumble for car keys. Have them in your hand, ready to use when you reach the car.
Don’t electronically unlock your vehicle until you are within door opening distance. This helps stop a thief from getting into the car when you least expect it.
Always lock your car, even if you are away for only a few moments.
Do not leave valuables — gifts, cell phones, purse or clothing — in open view in your car. Take valuables with you, lock them in your trunk, or cover them in an unobtrusive way.
Thieves do their own form of window shopping. They look in parked cars for gifts and other merchandise, and will break through car windows to get at such valuables.
When you return to your vehicle after your shopping trip, lock your car door as soon as you get in.
If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you are separated from each other. Select a central meeting place. Teach them to know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help. Have them memorize or keep your cell phone number handy.
Before surfing the internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Everyone’s computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed. Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.
Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Be aware of “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address. Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company. To avoid purchasing counterfeit products, carefully examine the products you want to buy for signs of missing information (manufacturing information, warranty, product codes, etc.), broken or missing safety seals, different or incomplete packaging, and subtle or obvious changes to a company logo.