ST. GEORGE – The holiday season is here, and with only three days left until Black Friday shopping begins, shopping safety is at the top of many people’s mind. As holiday shoppers look to take advantage of great deals and would be criminals look to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers, it’s important to shop smart.
The tradition of assigning bike officers to patrol the shopping centers around town continues with the St. George Police Department scheduling extra patrol shifts for Black Friday shopping. The additional police patrol will continue through Christmas.
From his experience working several years during the Christmas holiday shopping season, St. George Police Sgt. Ivor Fuller presented tips during a Monday podcast designed to help the public protect their property and stay safe during the sometimes chaotic shopping season.
In addition to the Police Department’s amped-up patrol, here are Fuller’s tips to keep yourself from becoming a victim:
- The number one thing, Fuller said, is to lock your vehicles.
“A lot of these crimes that occur during this time of year are opportunity,” he said, “and simply just creating that barrier between you and someone that has the desire to steal something from you can do a lot so we ask that they lock their doors.”
- If you have valuables inside your vehicle, keep them out of sight, Fuller said.
“Purses, gifts – lock them in the trunk or place them in an area where they’re not easily visible to someone who’s just walking by who might see that they do have something in there that they might want to try and take,” he said.
- As it does get dark a lot earlier this time of year, park in well-lit areas, be mindful of what’s around you including other vehicles and whenever possible, it’s always safer to go in pairs.
- Report suspicious activity.
“Report any suspicious activity at all immediately to the police department,” Fuller said, “so that we can come out and check on things and make sure that everyone’s having an enjoyable season and being able to do what they wish to do here in St. George safely.”
The National Crime Prevention Council also offers the following holiday shopping tips:
Shopping in Stores
- Do not buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.
- Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.
- Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as one-time or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.
- Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.
- Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.
Walking to and From Your Car
- Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
- Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
- Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
- 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. Visit www.bytecrime.org for free software downloads.
- 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.
- Beware 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.
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