The holiday shopping season officially starts on Black Friday, and while you’re shopping for holiday gifts, criminals will be shopping for victims. Here are some safe shopping tips for you and your family this season:
First and foremost, criminals are opportunists looking for the easiest target. By taking some simple steps, you can reduce your likelihood of being targeted, and increase your likelihood of a safe shopping experience:
- Safe shopping begins with heightened awareness of your surroundings. Pay attention to people and vehicles near you, and pay special attention to anyone who seems to be paying attention to you.
- Stay off your phone while you’re shopping and while you’re walking through parking lots; if you must have a conversation, sit somewhere with your back against a wall so no one can approach you from behind, and glance around while you’re talking.
- Remember, a safe shopping experience is a priority for retailers. No retailer wants someone to be attacked on their premises. If you are uneasy about taking packages to your vehicle, ask for an escort and the store should be happy to provide one.
- Keep your vehicle locked, and don’t use it to store your purchases. Criminals who want your stuff will watch for people who come and go from their vehicles during their shopping sprees. If you have a lot of packages and you don’t want to carry them around, you’re better off loading them into your vehicle and then moving your vehicle to another location in the parking lot (as if you were departing). If you don’t have a trunk or a cargo cover inside your vehicle, take a blanket or something else to prevent people from seeing your items through your vehicle’s windows. Make your expensive purchases toward the end of your day vs. leaving them sitting in your vehicle while you continue to shop.
- Be prepared to respond to carjackers and thieves who approach you. Don’t ever stand up to an armed attacker! Instead, do something to create a distraction (set off your car alarm, throw something at them or away from them, ask a crazy question “Do you like Cheetos?”) and then run away as fast as you can. Cars and things can be replaced, you cannot.
Here are a few tips for safe shopping with young children:
- Snap a full-length photo of your children (including shoes) with your cell phone whenever you take them out in public. If you get separated, the photo will help authorities or volunteers look for your child.
- As you enter any store with young children, talk to them about staying with you and then make a plan so that they know what to do if you get separated. Have your child pick a spot (a sign or a landmark in the store) that they can easily find if they are alone and make that the meeting place; your child should choose it so they’ll remember it. Do this in every store you enter.
- Remind your children that they should never exit the store with anyone, even if that person tells them that they saw you leave. Tell them that anyone who is helping them should take them to a cashier or to customer service.
- If you lose your child in the store, don’t waste precious moments looking for your child. Immediately go to customer service and let them know. Most big retailers and many smaller ones practice “Code Adam,” a national program named in honor of John Walsh’s son Adam, that provides protocols for store staff to respond quickly and efficiently to a lost child situation.
- Children who are bored are more likely to wander off and get lost. One great way to keep your children safe and happy while shopping is keep them engaged. Allow them to help you find items on the shelf, or pick sizes or colors for you, play “I Spy” as you’re moving through the store.
With a little planning on your part, shopping can be safe and fun for everyone.
Since 2010, Revved Up Kids has trained thousands of children to recognize dangerous people, avoid unsafe situations, and escape attackers. Our training programs are available for boys and girls in K-8th grade, for teen girls 11 and older, for parents, and for youth serving organizations. Contact us to discuss protecting the children you love from predators and violence, 678.526.3335.