Sheriff offers cautions for holiday shopping
Black Friday is swiftly approaching, heralding the start of the Christmas shopping season.
Sheriff Mark Hebert says Christmas is a time for joy and giving but it can also be one of the most hectic times of year.
“Don’t let a busy holiday schedule make you an easy target for theft and other holiday related crimes,” the sheriff said, offering the following tips:
BEFORE YOU GO SHOPPING: If you are shopping with children, have a plan in case you are separated from them. Make sure your children have your mobile phone number in case they need to contact you. You can also select a predetermined place to meet should you get separated. Also, be sure your children know who they can ask for help, whether it be security or store personnel.
Don’t shop alone, bring a friend or adult family member. There’s safety in numbers.
Be mindful of what you post on social networking websites. Don’t alert people that you will be away from home or on your own while shopping.
Don’t carry large amounts of cash on you. Use a credit or debit card to make purchases if possible. Be sure to keep a list of debit or credit card numbers and each card company’s contact information in a secure location in case you need to report a lost or stolen card.
Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle. If you must leave valuables in your vehicle, place them the trunk. If you don’t have a trunk use a blanket or towel to hide them. If criminals can’t see a target they will be less likely to attempt to break in.
WHILE OUT ON A SHOPPING TRIP: Park in a well-lit area. Remember where you parked so that you can find your vehicle quickly when you are ready to leave.
Lock your vehicle doors.
If you must carry a purse or wallet, wear the purse across your body and put the wallet in your front pocket to help deter pickpockets. Always keep your purse closed tightly.
Escort your children at all times. Children have been photographed, molested and even abducted from restrooms and fitting rooms.
Don’t be distracted. It can be easy to lose track of your purse, wallet, and shopping bags when you’re juggling the kids, the crowds, and the shopping lists at the stores this holiday season. Pay attention to what you are doing. Never leave your belongings unattended.
When paying for a purchase don’t take out the payment until it is ready to be processed. Be sure to hold your debit or credit card at an angle that would make it impossible for an opportunistic thief to read the card number. Be sure to shield any pin numbers from view.
BEFORE HEADING HOME FROM A DAY OF SHOPPING: While you’re walking to and from your vehicle avoid distractions such as talking or texting on your phone or digging through your purse for your keys. Scan the parking lot for any suspicious activity. Have your keys ready and in your hand before walking to your vehicle. Before getting into your vehicle, glance in the back seat for any potential criminals.
Consolidate your packages as you shop. Carrying fewer bags and packages will make you a less desirable target than someone carrying multiple items. Don’t overload yourself. Be sure you have clear visibility and freedom of motion in case you must react as you are walking to your vehicle.
This time of year most people are full of the holiday spirit. Given the opportunity, criminals will take advantage of your good cheer. Beware of strangers approaching you. Con-artists are skilled in methods of distraction. Don’t be taken in or they could be the ones taking off with your money or belongings.
If you do feel threatened, get back to the store if possible. Again, there is safety in numbers.
Keep in mind, if something makes you feel uncomfortable it is probably because it should. No matter where you are, if you see something suspicious report it. Call the local police or call 911.
The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 337-828-1960 or 985-384-1622.