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How To Stay Safe While Out Shopping This Holiday Season

Teresa P. Bernard -- This is not a time to forget that criminals will also be out and about looking for easy targets to make a big score. Don't let others pick your pockets while you're busy picking presents.

The winter holiday season is fast approaching and as always it's a very busy time of year for everyone, especially for criminals. Many are caught up in the particulars of their holiday preparations and shopping. Holiday shoppers are running from store to store often carrying large amounts of money and loaded down with packages. Unfortunately criminals view the holiday season as a time of opportunity. This is not a time to forget that criminals will also be out and about looking for easy targets to make a big score. Being the unfortunate prey of crime can quickly wreck your holiday mood.

The FBI reports that criminal activity increases during December. Crimes such as burglaries, muggings, car thefts, robberies, pick pocketing, credit card scams, etc. Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, remember to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Criminals will be out looking for an easy mark who isn't on the look out.

The day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the shopping season for the holidays. As you begin that holiday shopping, you might want some advice on how to avoid becoming an easy mark for criminals. Remember these tips are useful all year long, too.

Parking lot safety

Trying to stay safe while you are shopping for Christmas can be a little difficult. One reason is there are fewer daylight hours this time of year. When shoppers arrive at the mall it may still be daylight outside. Anxious to get inside and start shopping, they are probably not considering it will be dark when they come out. Often they don't think about that and aren't very picky about where they park.

Because parking lots fill up quickly this time of year, it might be harder to find a good parking spot. Look for one that has plenty of light and lots of pedestrian traffic around. Once your car is parked, familiarize yourself with its location. Notice any row numbers, etc., so you can easily find it upon your return. Be sure to lock your car when you leave.

Take a companion along when you shop. Using the buddy system reduces your chances of being mugged or attacked. If you are shopping alone, consider walking near other shoppers in the parking lot. Walk in well-lit areas and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid areas where people are loitering. Walk with a purpose and authority in your stride.

Shopping mall safety

While shopping inside it is a good idea to avoid dark hallways and stockrooms, especially at closing time. Avoid using bathrooms that are hidden in a back passageway. Use facilities located near the mall's food court or other well-trafficked areas instead.

Be careful and on guard when walking in crowds. Watch out for any unfamiliar person who bumps, pushes, or gets too close. These may be a tactic designed to draw your attention away from pickpockets trying to take your wallet. Be sure to keep a close watch on your shopping bags and other personal effects as well. Carry your purse firmly near your body and never leave it unattended in the shopping cart. It's not a good idea to keep your wallet, credit cards, or cash in your back pocket or a backpack. These are places pickpockets find it easy to get at without being noticed. Carry these items in your front pockets instead.

Don't carry large amounts of cash with you. Try to make your purchases using a personal check, credit card, or ATM card if you can. When you do have to pay with cash only pull out what is needed. Keep the rest of your money hidden from view. Save your most expensive purchases for last, so you can head straight home afterward.

When you are ready to go back to your car, don't be overloaded with packages. Combine as many of them as you can into fewer packages or make several trips to your car. Carrying too many packages will hinder your view and you won't be able to move quickly to avoid being attacked.

It's best to have your car keys ready and in hand when you reach your vehicle to prevent having to search for them. You may also want to check if you are being followed to your car too. As you approach your car, do not use the auto unlock mode on your key fob from too far a distance. By doing this, the flashing lights on the vehicle are advertising to a would-be assailant which vehicle is yours. He could race ahead and then be waiting for you at the car. Instead, wait until just before you get to there, check to make sure you are not being followed, then unlock the doors. When you arrive at your vehicle be sure to look into the back seat before you get in to make sure no one is hiding inside.

Don't leave your valuables and packages inside your vehicle in plain sight. It is best to put them into your trunk where they are hidden from view. Failure to do so could be cause for someone to break into your car and take your belongings.

When you get into your vehicle lock your doors immediately and drive off. Wait until later to check off your list or scribble purchases into your checkbook ledger. Don't delay your departure if it can be helped. This creates the perfect opportunity for an attacker to approach you and force his way into your car, especially if you didn't lock the doors.

An additional precaution you may to consider is to carry a personal alarm. A personal alarm is the perfect self-defense device for drawing attention to you. It is easily carried on your wrist or key chain. When activated it will emit a loud annoying sound designed to get noticed by others. An attacker won't like this and will leave you alone.

Adopting these safety tips will help your Christmas to be a cheerful and joyful affair.


Teresa P. Bernard is co-founder and CEO of A1 Self Defense Products, a company founded in 2006, which offers a large selection of home and personal security tools designed to help keep you and your loved ones safe. Teresa has written numerous articles on the topic of non-lethal self defense and is considered an expert. Teresa is also a fine artist of original oil paintings. She has created a name for herself as an accomplished artist and has sold her paintings across the U.S. and world wide. To find out more about personal safety products and other products for self defense visit

© 2010 Teresa Bernard

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