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When Shopping This Season….

It’s that time of year again!  Every year we  promise we won’t get caught up, and every year our will power vanishes.  We head off to the malls, maybe just ‘to have a quick look’.  We glance at catalogs, surf the better sites.  At first, our resolve to maintain prudence and control is pretty impressive.  We hide our credit cards.  We make lists, though we totally ignore them.  We remember past seasonal faux pas.  Then, well… you know.  We start off with little things, some table decorations,  cute cocktail napkins.  Next, it’s bath and spa stuff.  Some sparkly hair clips.  Socks.  And we’re off!  We find our credit cards.  Our debit cards, too. Ah, the holidays!

Here are some of the best tried-and-true holiday shopping and driving safety tips around.  You’ve seen them all before.  They’re still really smart:

  • Whenever you park the car, find a spot that is really well lighted.  If possible, it should also be close to your destination.
  • Avoid, avoid, avoid parking next to vans, trucks with toppers or camper shells or cars with heavily tinted windows.
  • Close all windows; lock all doors.
  • Take note of where you parked and which store entrance you are closest to.
  • Shop with a friend or family member so you have someone to walk to and from the parking lot with.  It’s much safer with buddies!
  • Consolidate your purchases by putting little bags and parcels into one or two bigger, plain bags – less tempting.
  • Put packages and bags in the trunk or under your seat where they can’t be seen.  You might also keep a dark blanket or towel in the car to cover items on the floor behind the front seat.  Again, less tempting.
  • Here’s a good one:  if you go out from time to time to put purchases in your car, be sure to move the car to a new spot each time you do this.  Anyone watching you will believe that  you and your goodies are gone.  Just remember where you park each time.  And even if the parking lot is full, you will find a new spot eventually.  It’s worth it. 
  • Make your most expensive purchases last, so you can head back to the car and start for home at once.
  • Ask a security guard to see you to your car.  Really.
  • Walk to your car with your eyes up, keys in hand.  Do not appear vulnerable or lost.  Pay attention – keep you phone handy, but do not use it.  When you get to your car, walk around it and check that no one is hiding near or under it, waiting to attack or grab.
  • If you spot shady or suspicious people near where you have parked, return to the mall – get that security guard.
  • You have got to stay aware of your surroundings.  Clever thieves look just like us, normal shoppers.  They may bump into you and grab your wallet, keys, packages – or you.  Again, keep your cell phone handy but do not let it distract you.
  • Always check the front and back seats of the car before you get in to be sure no one is hiding there.
  • Once you are in the car, lock the doors immediately.  Buckle up and go.  Criminals love it when we sit in our cars, making calls, going over our purchases, checking our hair.  When we’re distracted, we’re targets.
It’s worth noting that most car insurance companies do not cover holiday gifts and packages stolen from a policy holder‘s car, no matter where in the car those parcels were stored.   Some credit card companies will cover stolen purchases – check with your card issuer and save all receipts.  If you paid with cash or a check, you are not protected either.  No matter how you paid, however, be sure to file a police report as soon as possible so that other shoppers are not victimized as well.  You may not recover anything, but you will definitely feel better for taking action.  And it is the holidays, after all – time for good deeds, despite what’s just happened!
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