Polk sheriff offers tips for safe shopping during holidays

Published 10:24 am Monday, November 21, 2011

“The holiday season is right around the corner and shoppers are crowding malls and discount stores to buy the latest gadgets and find the best deals,” said Sheriff Hill.
But what shoppers may be neglecting is their safety, according to Hill.
“This time of year attracts more shopping-related criminal activity because of the larger crowds and the extended store hours,” Hill said. “These factors and the usual distraction of shopping creates a more favorable environment for petty thieves and other offenders.”
The sheriff reminds all Polk County residents to follow these safety tips:
Shopping safety:
• A single shopper is the best target for theft. Always shop with a friend or relative.
• When going shopping, tell someone where you are going and what time to expect you to return. Also, make sure they know what you are wearing, as well as the type of vehicle you are driving.
• Shop during daylight hours. If you shop at night, park your vehicle in a well-lit area.
• Dress casually and comfortably and avoid wearing expensive jewelry. If carrying cash, keep it in your front pocket rather than in a purse or wallet. This makes it much more difficult for a pickpocket to remove. Also store car keys in a pants or jacket pocket. If your purse is stolen, you will still be able to drive home.
• Pay careful attention to your surroundings and avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.
• When returning to your vehicle, check around it and in the back seat. Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Have your car keys in your hand to avoid spending unnecessary time unprotected from the security of your vehicle.
• If you feel uneasy returning to your vehicle alone, find a security guard and ask him or her to walk you to your car.
Credit card fraud
According to Sheriff Hill, “During this time of year, busy holiday shoppers become careless and vulnerable to other crimes as well. Credit card fraud and gift card fraud are on the rise. However, taking a few preventive measures can help.”
• Keep a close watch on your credit card every time you use it, and make sure you  get it back as quickly as possible.
• Never write your PIN number on your credit card.
• Never leave your credit cards or receipts lying around.
• Shield your credit card number so that others around you can’t copy it or capture     it on a mobile telephone or other camera.
• Carry only credit cards that you absolutely need.
• Shred anything with your credit card number written on it.
• If you’re planning to purchase online, make sure the web page where you enter your credit card information is secure through SSL (Secure Socket Layer). You can tell if the web page is secure by looking for the gold lock or key icon at the bottom corner of your browser window.
• If you’re not comfortable submitting your information through the Internet, call the seller and give them your information over the telephone. Never send your credit card information via email.
• Check the company out. Do business only with companies that provide a physical address and telephone number.
• Keep good records. Always print out a copy of any online products or services you purchase.

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