LUMBERTON — With Christmas Day around the corner many shoppers may be trying to beat the clock to get some last-minute items, and thieves may be, too.
Large crowds and extended store hours provide the environment this time of year for shopping-related crimes that can be avoided. Rather than focus solely on that last-minute gift, shoppers should concentrate on their safety and surroundings, said Ken Sealey, Robeson County sheriff.
Sealey urged county residents to follow the following safety tips when shopping this holiday season.
Shopping alone is not advised. Thieves target single shoppers. Instead, shop with friends or relatives and always let them know your location, time expected back and a description of your vehicle and what you are wearing.
Shop during daylight hours. But if you must shop at night park, your vehicle in a well-lit area.
Dress casually and comfortably and avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
Cash should be kept in a front pocket rather than in a purse or wallet. This deter thieves from preying on distracted shoppers. Keys should be kept in a coat or pants pocket. If your wallet or purse is stolen, you will still be able to drive home.
Avoid overloading yourself with packages and pay attention to your surroundings. Clear visibility and freedom of motion is important to prevent being targeted by opportunistic criminals and helps avert accidents.
When returning to your vehicle, check your surrounding and the back seat of your vehicle. Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Find a security guard if you feel uneasy returning to your car alone and have the guard walk you to your vehicle.
Credit card fraud and gift card fraud are on the rise during this time of year, Sealey said. Busy holiday shoppers become careless and vulnerable to these types of crime.
Sealey suggested keeping a close watch on credit cards during each transaction. Make sure to retrieve your card expeditiously and never write your personal identification number on your credit card or leave your credits cards or receipts visible to anyone other than yourself.
Gift cards are not immune to scams. Never buy gift cards from online auction sites. They are breeding grounds for stolen or counterfeit cards. Only buy gift cards from retailers that are selling the gift cards or from their secured website.
Sealey urged shoppers to be careful so that they don’t become victims of criminal activity.
“Unfortunately, when shopping, people have a tendency to let their guard down,” Sealey said. “Paying attention and taking precautions can help eliminate their changes of being victimized.”