Happy holidays? How to protect yourself from thieves while shopping

Thieves like to target holiday shoppers or their cars but there are several things you can do to protect yourself.
Thieves like to target holiday shoppers or their cars but there are several things you can do to protect yourself. (Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young)

Holiday shopping can be stressful, as it’s always tough to figure out what to buy for your family. It’s definitely not going to be the most wonderful time of the year though if you end up getting robbed while out shopping but it happens more often than you may think.

The 2015 police-reported crime statistics showed that incidents of robbery increased by five per cent in Canada, with the holidays being the prime season for this type of crime.

Thieves like to target holiday shoppers or their cars but there are several things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Don’t let yourself be distracted by your smartphone or by listening to music as thieves will take advantage of distracted shoppers;
  • Don’t carry a lot of cash on you, as it can’t be replaced if stolen, unlike credit cards which provide protection from fraudulent transactions;
  • Only take out your debit or credit card once the salesperson asks you to produce it. This way you can prevent a thief from getting your account information by “shoulder surfing;”
  • Female shoppers should be mindful of carrying their purses close to their body and make sure cash, debit or credit cards are in a zipped compartment;
  • Some male shoppers are easy pickings for thieves, because they carry their wallet in their back pocket. Wearing a money belt is often a better and safer option.

How to protect your vehicle while shopping:

  • Always lock your car, even if you’re only going to be away for a few minutes;
  • Park in well-lit areas and try to park where there are a lot of other cars, as thieves like to target cars parked in isolated areas;
  • Be aware that some thieves like to sit in parking lots looking for easy pickings so don’t leave the items you buy in plain sight in your car, rather put them in the trunk or somewhere out of sight;
  • Don’t leave a set of extra car keys in your car during the holidays or you may find your vehicle gone.
If you’ve decided to avoid the hordes of holiday shoppers and do some Internet shopping instead, be aware that online shopping carries its own security risks.
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