Safety tips for holiday shoppers
by KENNY FARMER
With Christmas approaching, shoppers will soon be out in droves. Unfortunately, there will also be those looking to take advantage of the increased amount of retail traffic.

“People are looking for opportunities,” said Pell City Police Chief Greg Turley.

Turley said people should be “vigilant” of everything from pickpocketing to identify theft. He said shoppers should keep cell phones within reach while shopping, and report any suspicious activity.

The National Crime Prevention Council said purses should be held close to the body and wallets be kept in front pockets to deter pickpockets.

Turley said that with large crowds, it is difficult to tell who is simply walking to their car, and who is searching parking lots for unlocked doors and unsecured items. He said items such as GPS systems, cell phones, purses and other valuable items should be kept out of sight when left inside a vehicle.

The NCPC recommends the following when shopping: keep receipts and bank statements to verify all purchases; consider alternate options for paying for merchandise, including disposable credit cards or money orders; be aware of who might be looking over your shoulder when taking out credit cards and other personal information; do not purchase more than you can carry; and notify a security guard or store employee if any suspicious behavior is noticed.

Turley said people should also be vigilant when ordering products online and when making payments over the phone.

“Know who you are dealing with,” said Turley.

He said if there is any doubt about the person requesting a payment, that a paper copy of the billing statement should be requested. He also recommended using only secure websites. Those sites can be identified by an icon of a locked padlock at the bottom right of the screen or by the “https” in the URL address.

The NCPC advised that security software, including anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software, should be updated prior to making purchases. Free security software can be downloaded at www.bytecrime.org.

Turley said that many times, those attempting to acquire personal information over the phone are involved in a scam, and many times this type of scam is aimed at the elderly.

The NCPC also offers the following tips for those shopping online this holiday season: keep personal information private and passwords secure; do not respond to requests to verify your credit card information unless you initiated the contact; and beware of “bargains” from unfamiliar companies.

Turley said the Pell City Police Department will be present at shopping areas over the weekend to “provide any services that you or your family may need.”

Contact Kenny Farmer at kfarmer@dailyhome.com.

© 2012