While the season for giving officially starts Friday, it’s also the season of taking for some less scrupulous people. Richmond Police Department Chief Larry Brock offers the following tips to Madison Countians to help ensure everyone has a happy, and safe, holiday shopping season:
• Carry your valuables wisely. Carry only the credit cards you need and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Do not “flash” large amounts of cash while shopping.
• Do not leave valuables visible in your vehicle. When storing items purchased at the stores, place them out of sight. The best place is a locked trunk.
• Carry a cell phone with you. If someone makes you suspicious or uncomfortable, notify security or call the police. Don’t talk on a cell phone when walking to and from your vehicle. Keep your full attention on your surroundings.
• Whenever possible, park and walk in well-lit areas. Avoid parking in an unlit lot or area, no matter how convenient it is. Park and walk in well-traveled areas. Be aware of your surroundings, especially the people around you.
• Carry your purse close to you, with the opening or flap toward your body. Never leave a purse unattended or open in a shopping cart. Strap the purse into the cart using the infant seat belt if possible. Do not have your purse in a cart as you leave the store or while you unload your cart.
• Protect your credit card numbers and other personal information. Carefully dispose of receipts that have a credit card number on them. Never provide credit card information in response to unsolicited calls or emails.
• Don’t announce your new high-dollar purchases after the holidays. Break down the boxes of TVs, stereos, computers, etc. and turn them inside out before putting them in the trash.
• If you are traveling for the holidays, make your home look “lived in.” Have a friend or neighbor collect your mail and newspapers or have your service suspended while you are away (call 624-6680 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a delivery hold on a Richmond Register subscription). Use timers to turn lights off and on.
• Be aware of your surroundings. When you return to your vehicle, scan the interior of your car to be sure no one is hiding inside. Check to see if you are being followed.
• Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. You will be ready to unlock the door and will not be delayed by fumbling and looking for your keys.
• Lock your vehicle and put up your windows even while you are driving.
• Select safe ATM locations. If you go to an automatic teller machine for cash, check for people around and make sure it is well-lit and in a safe location.
• Drive defensively. Traffic is heavier during the holidays. Drivers also may have indulged in too much holiday spirits.
Tips for safely shopping online:
• 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.
• 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 website 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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