On “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, retailers traditionally kick off the holiday shopping season by offering the lowest possible prices and too-good-to-miss deals. But while shoppers are searching for bargains, unscrupulous characters may be lurking, waiting to prey on oblivious consumers.
Penn’s Division of Public Safety (DPS) has a few tips on how to stay safe while shopping, not just through the holiday season, but every day of the year.
First and foremost, DPS says leave as much cash at home as possible. The less cash a customer flashes at the register, the less attractive he or she is to a criminal.
Secondly, when arriving at a mall or shopping plaza, park in a well-lit area and be sure to lock your car doors.
While shopping, peruse in pairs or groups. DPS says criminals tend to hunt for solo consumers and are less likely to target people in groups.
When loading gifts into your car, put them in the trunk, pull out of the parking spot and move your car to another location. This can give potential thieves the illusion that you are leaving.
“Leaving that parking spot will deter any thief who is waiting for you to load up and go back inside,” says Maureen S. Rush, vice president for public safety.
DPS says it is also important to observe your fellow shoppers. Being aware of your surroundings—instead of being completely absorbed in your own merchandise—will help to deter many criminals who would prefer the element of surprise.
Finally, when leaving the store, fish out your car keys before exiting. With the end of daylight-saving time, it gets dark around 5 p.m. If you feel unsafe when leaving a location, ask a store employee for help. Many retailers will find someone to walk you to your car.
After entering your car, immediately lock your doors and pull out of the parking spot as quickly as possible—otherwise, you may be a sitting target.
For more safety tips in general, visit the Division of Public Safety at www.publicsafety.upenn.edu.
Originally published on November 18, 2010