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How to Practice Safe Shopping in Person or Online

The holiday shopping season increases the chances that you could be ripped off. Law enforcement officials are offering some timely tips for protecting yourself from crooks.

One dark underside of holiday shopping is crime. The surge of buying in stores and online presents many opportunities to criminals.

Law enforcement agencies are offering tips to help protect shoppers.

For safe in-person shopping:

  • 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.

(Tips courtesy of the Elk Grove Police Department.)

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.

Safe online shopping:

For those who opt to avoid the crowds and purchase holiday gifts online,:

  • 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.

(These tips were offered by the FBI last year.)

Do you have precautions you take for safe holiday shopping? You can tell us in the comments section below.

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