Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

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The holiday season is always a special time of year. It is also a time when busy people become distracted and vulnerable to theft and other holiday crime. We can never be too careful, too prepared, or too aware. The following Holiday Safety Tips were compiled to contribute to the safety and security of our residents during the next few shopping-heavy weeks.

Please share this information with family, friends, and neighbors. Your Harris County MUD 249 Directors wish you a safe, happy, and peaceful holiday season.

Driving and Parking

  • Avoid driving alone or at night.
  • Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device.
  • If you must shop at night, park in a well-lit area.
  • Park as close as you can to your destination and take notice of where you parked.

thief grabbing purse from car

  • Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight.
  • Be sure to locate your keys prior to going to your car, so your attention is on your surrounding while you approach your vehicle. Avoid using your mobile devices at these times to prevent distraction.
  • Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag, and parcels. Do not put them down or on top of the car in order to open the door.
  • Ask mall or store security for an escort if there are suspicious people near your vehicle.

ATM and Point of Sale (PoS)

Skimmers are on the rise in the Houston area; be aware any time you are using an unfamiliar ATM or PoS not located firmly within view of the proprietor(s). Gas stations are particularly vulnerable; this article from the Houston Chronicle outlines more details on skimmers.

atm user covering the keypad as they enter their pin

  • If you must use an ATM, choose one that is located inside a bank, police station, mall, or well-lit location.
  • Withdraw only the amount of cash you need.
  • Protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from anyone who is standing near you.
  • Do not throw your ATM receipt away at the ATM location.
  • Before shopping, set up draft and charge alerts on the cards you intend using. Many banks can alert you within moments of a charge.

Shopping

Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, "con-artists" may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.

  • Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or adult family member.
  • Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.
  • Dress casually and comfortably. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible; if you do carry a wallet or purse, be extra careful. They are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas, transportation terminals, bus stops, on buses and other rapid transit.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Keep cash in your front pocket.
  • Always carry your Texas Driver License or Identification Card along with necessary cash and/ or credit cards you expect to use.
  • Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused. To aid in reporting a loss, keep a record of all of your credit card numbers (and drivers license and/or passport) in a safe place at home.
  • Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, stay alert to your surroundings.

Children

If possible, leave small children at home with a trusted babysitter. If you do take your children with you, teach your child to:

  • Immediately inform you if a stranger is bothering them.
  • Go to a store clerk and ask for help in case your child is separated from you.
  • Stay close to you at all times while shopping.
  • Not make unaccompanied trips to the restroom.

crowded mall during holiday rush

Teach children their full name, address and telephone number to give to police officers or mall security. Children should never be allowed to go to the car alone and they should never be left alone in the car.

Avoiding the crowds and shopping online for Cyber Monday? Lifelock® has some safety tips for your online shopping, as well; you can follow this link to their list.

Strangers at Your Door

Be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts. It is not uncommon for criminals to take advantage of the generosity of people during the holiday season by soliciting donations door-to-door for charitable causes although no charity is involved. Ask for their identification, and find out how the donated funds will be used. If you are not satisfied, do not donate. Donate to a recognized charitable organization, preferably online or at the charity’s business address.

Curbside

Lastly, if you are opening any of your big purchases now, make sure to not put the empty boxes at the curb for everyone to see: it tells potential thieves what new upgrades you have made in the home! Also, electronics often have serial and model number information on the exterior of the box, so if you can’t store the box for the duration of the warranty or possible return window, take the box to a public dump site or recycle center for disposal, or time your placement at the curb for immediately before your trash provider is picking up; their schedule is on the district calendar!

television box left curbside

Take a spare moment to look out for your fellow Harris County MUD 249 neighbors as well, and help each other work towards a safe and secure post-Thanksgiving season.

Make sure your community is safe when out after Thanksgiving! Share this post to social media using the buttons at the top of the news post to spread the news to your neighbors on Facebook and Twitter, or copy the link to share to Nextdoor!