The annual shopping surge that pushes retail balance sheets into the black, popularly known as Black Friday, returns this week. Unfortunately, criminals will mark the occasional by looking to boost their own profits.
Droves of holiday shoppers will make cash registers sing over the next few days, some of them before the tryptophan from their Thanksgiving turkey has had time to wear off. The consumer research group BIGinsight projects the turnout at 147 million.
Thieves will no doubt be out in force as well. To keep them from targeting you, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) suggests you follow a few safety and personal security tips.
- Avoid overload. Don't buy more than you can carry in one trip to the car. Take a friend with you or have a store employee help you carry your boxes, bags and packages. To a criminal, a lone shopper with overloaded arms looks like easy pickings.
- Protect your e-wallet. When shopping online, stick with companies you know and trust. You're better off steering clear any website that seems suspicious — or any offer that seems too good to be true.
- Keep records. Hang on to receipts and print all confirmations of online purchases. Having this documentation will help you verify your post-holiday credit card bills and bank statements.
- Beware of shoulder-surfers. An enterprising identity thief would be overjoyed to spot your account numbers, so be careful when you take out your credit card or checkbook at the register.
- Be ready to drive. Take your keys out before you get to the car. Fumbling around in your pocket could make you vulnerable to an opportunistic criminal.
- Keep your car low-profile. Lock your packages in the trunk so that they're not visible.
- Don't give pickpockets an opening. Wallets should be kept in front pants pockets and purses should be carried close to the body.
Don't forget to keep your home secure
BIGinsight's estimate of 147 million shoppers is about 5 million below last year's turnout. However, fewer shoppers is no guarantee of a reduced threat from criminals.
Remember the NCPC's suggestions. And if you have a monitored home security system, remember to activate it before you venture out to the stores. One of the many benefits of alarm monitoring is the knowledge that your home security provider is on the job even when you're not around.
Good hunting, Black Friday shoppers — and be careful out there.