Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shop Smart

Shop Smart

Thieves are known to target holiday shoppers. After all, many shoppers are distracted—talking on cell phones—and/or carrying large or unwieldy packages. Also, they’re carrying brand-new items, such as toys or electronics. This combination can spell danger for someone who’s not paying attention.

Here are a few hints for smarter holiday (or anytime) shopping:

Park smart. Scope out—even if you have to wait for it—a good parking space. It should be well-lit and close to the entrance. Would-be attackers will avoid you if they’re afraid of being seen by other shoppers, employees, or mall security.

Use the trunk. Store purchases in the trunk. Don’t give thieves a chance to window shop inside your car. If you don’t have a trunk or you run out of space in it, hide things under a blanket or box you’ve placed on the floor in the back seat.

Prepare yourself. Make more frequent trips to the car so that you can always have one hand completely free. Before leaving the inside of a store or the mall, get ready. Hold all bags in one hand. Have your car keys in the other hand. Experts recommend fanning out your keys between your fingers so that you could scratch or punch an attacker.

Walk with purpose. Know where you parked and walk straight to your car. If you’ve forgotten, hit the panic button or unlock key. The sound might deter an assailant, as well. Hold your head high and look around you as you walk quickly.

Make noise. Sing or talk to your kids—even your baby—to deter a potential attacker. If you’re alone, talk out loud. They’ll assume you’re either talking on a cell phone or acting crazy—or both. They won’t want to approach if they know you’re capable of making noise.

Load quickly and carefully. Place items on the passenger side or in the trunk. If you have a bench seat, slide across to the driver’s side. Thieves attack most often on the driver’s side, frequently parking beside their victims. If you must enter on the driver’s side, look into the window of the car parked next to yours.

Ask for help. If you’re older, disabled, trying to juggle multiple items and/or shopping with children, don’t hesitate to ask a mall security guard to walk you to your car. That’s why the mall hires extra workers during the holidays. Can you imagine an attacker approaching you while you’re being escorted by security?

The real key is to be alert, aware of your surroundings. I should know; I’ve been the victim of grand theft auto, a home invasion and a mugging!!! Please, please, please be careful—but not so paranoid that you can’t have fun.

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