We're in the midst of the holiday shopping season. During this time of year, many people give their credit cards a workout, take advantage of extended shopping hours at their favorite retailers and order gifts online. Amid all of the chaos and excitement that surrounds holiday shopping, people often overlook the threats posed to their personal, home and financial safety.
Criminals increasingly target shoppers during the holiday season, and so it's important to take simple, practical steps to protect yourself, your family and the gifts you purchase.
Gail Cunningham, vice president of membership and public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, shares the following tips:
- Take all credit cards and make a copy of the front and back. Keep this document in a safe place at home. In case of theft, this will allow you to quickly identify what was stolen and have the cards' toll-free numbers available to report the incident.
- Before going to the mall, unload your wallet. Bring with you only the credit card you intend to use for that day's purchases. If your wallet gets lost or stolen, this will greatly reduce the trouble you face following an event like this.
- Remove your Social Security card from your wallet. Also check to see if any other cards use your social security number as an identifier (i.e., insurance cards, etc.) and remove them too. The social security number is the gateway to your identity and should be protected.
- If you lose your credit card or wallet, report it immediately as your level of coverage can diminish if not reported promptly.
- When at the ATM, survey your surroundings before approaching. If you notice someone lurking, leave the area and report it. Also, observe the ATM itself, looking for any suspicious add-ons. Thieves can add tiny devices that track your account and PIN number.
- Don't store packages in visible areas of your car. Instead, take the extra step of locking all valuables in the trunk of the car.
- Never walk to your car alone, even in daylight. Wait for other shoppers and walk out together. After dark, ask for store security to assist you.
Here are some additional safety tips from personal security expert Robert Siciliano that can be helpful to you this holiday shopping season.
- If anyone wants your items, hand them over. Do not fight over material goods. It isn't worth a box cutter across the face or your life.
- If you are buying high-priced items, have a security guard walk you out or bring a buddy.
- Use a carriage to store your goods and, other than pushing the carriage, keep your hands free.
- Always scan the area around you and your car to see if anyone is paying unwanted attention to you.
- Be aware when you are loading your car. If someone approaches and means to do harm, run back into the store.
Using common sense and being mindful about potential threats will ensure a fun and successful holiday shopping season.
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