Anson County sheriff offers holiday shopping safety tips

By: For the Record

“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,” Sheriff Landric Reid said in a release on Monday.

But what shoppers are neglecting is their safety, Reid said.

“This time of year attracts more shopping-related criminal activity because of the larger crowds and the extended store hours,” Reid said. “These factors and the usual distraction of shopping, creates a more favorable environment for petty thieves and other offenders.”

The sheriff reminded all Anson County residents to follow these safety tips:

• A single shopper is the best target for theft. Always shop with a friend or relative.

• When going shopping, shoppers should tell someone where they are going and what time they expect to return. That person should also know what the shopper is wearing, as well as the type of vehicle they are driving.

• Shop during daylight hours. Shoppers out at night should park their vehicle in a well-lit area.

• Dress casually and comfortably and avoid wearing expensive jewelry. If carrying cash, shoppers should keep it in their front pocket rather than in a purse or wallet to make it more difficult for a pick-pocket to remove. Shoppers should also store car keys in a pants or jacket pocket. If their purse is stolen, they will still be able to drive home.

• Pay careful attention to surroundings and avoid overloading with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.

• When shoppers are returning to their vehicle, they should check around it and in the back seat. Be aware of strangers approaching for any reason. Shoppers should have their car keys in hand to avoid spending unnecessary time unprotected from the security of their vehicle.

• Those feeling uneasy returning to their vehicle alone can find a security guard and ask the guard to walk them to the shopper’s car.

According to Sheriff Reid “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.”

To avoid credit card fraud, Reid recommended that shoppers:

• keep a close watch on their credit card every time they use it, and make sure they get it back as quickly as possible.

• never write their PIN on their credit card.

• never leave their credit cards or receipts lying around.

• shield their credit card number so that others around them can’t copy it or capture it on a mobile telephone or other camera.

• only carry credit cards that they absolutely need.

• shred anything with their credit card number written on it.

• If they’re planning to purchase online, make sure the web page where they enter their credit card information is secure through Secure Socket Layer. Shoppers can tell if the web page is secure by looking for the gold lock or key icon at the bottom corner of their browser window. Shoppers uncomfortable submitting their information through the internet can call the seller and give them their information over the telephone. Never send credit card information via email.

• check the company out. Only do business with companies that provide a physical address and telephone number.

• keep good records. Always print out a copy of any online products or services purchased.

To prevent gift card fraud, Reid recommended buyers:

• never buy gift cards from online auction sites. This is a large source of gift card fraud. Many of the gift cards are stolen, counterfeit or used, he said.

• only buy gift cards directly from the store issuing the gift card or from a secure retailer’s website.

•don’t buy gift cards off of publicly displayed racks in retail stores. Only purchase gift cards at the sales terminal from the cashier.

• always carefully examine both the front and back of a gift card before buying it. Shoppers who see a PIN number can ask for a different card. If the card looks like it has been tampered with in any way, put it back. Shoppers can always ask the store cashier to scan the gift card in front of them. This will guarantee that the card is valid when you bought and that it reflects the balance it was charged with.

• always keep the receipt as a proof of purchase as long as there is money stored on the gift card. If possible, register the gift card at the store’s website.

• never give a Social Security number, date of birth or any other unneeded private information when purchasing a gift card. No reputable company will ask for this information.

In light of these problems, Reid warned shoppers to be careful so that they don’t become the victim of criminal activity.

“Unfortunately, when shopping, people have a tendency to let their guard down,” Reid said. “However, paying attention and taking precautions can help eliminate their chances of being victimized.”

For the Record