The following holiday shopping safety tips are courtesy of Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas C. Krumpter and the NCPD.
Before Leaving Home
- Let someone know where you are going and what route you will be taking. Additionally, let them know when you expect to return.
- Leave your home secure, engage alarms and give the appearance that your home is occupied by leaving the lights on in the most frequently used rooms.
- Don’t leave valuable items out in the open. Secure them in closets, safes, etc.
- Always park in well-lit areas.
- Always lock all your doors
- Remove all items, such as radar detectors, laptops or packages and hide them in the trunk, glove compartment, out of sight.
- Avoid parking near vans or other vehicles with covered cargo areas.
- Look around the parking lot for suspicious persons before you exit your vehicle.
- Keep your money and credit cards in your front pocket and try to limit the number of credit cards and cash you’re carrying while shopping.
- To avoid being a victim of “Identity Theft”, be aware of exposing credit cards, debit cards and other identification at the cash register and ATM’s. Thieves will utilize cell phones to capture card information without your knowledge.
- Be cognizant of any other type of “Distraction” type of crimes that typically occur during this time of the year.
When Returning to Your Car
- Never leave the store with your arms full of packages. Use a courtesy cart.
- Check the parking lot for suspicious people and look around before you exit the store.
- Check underneath, in front and in back of your car as you approach it.
- Check the front and rear passenger seats inside your car before you enter it.
- If you are planning on returning to the store, never leave your packages in plain view inside your vehicle. Lock them in the trunk or place them on the floor and cover them with a blanket or jacket.
When Shopping Online
- Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable buying or bidding on an item over the web, or if you feel pressured to place your order immediately, maybe you shouldn’t.
- Be knowledgeable about web-based auctions. Take special care to familiarize yourself not only with the rules and policies of the auction site itself but with the legal terms (warranties, refund policy, etc.) of the seller’s items that you wish to bid on.
- Double check pricing. Whether the product is being sold as new or used, be suspicious of prices that are too good to be true. Also consider carefully whether you may be paying too much for an item, particularly if you’re bidding through an auction site. You may want to comparison shop, online or offline, before you buy.
- Review the return, refund, and shipping and handling policies as well as the other legal terms. If you can’t find them, ask the seller through an e-mail or telephone call to indicate where they are on the site or to provide them to you in writing. Often, return shipping charges may be more expensive than the item itself. Some retailers may only return for store credit or charge restocking fees. It is important to know these details prior to placing an order.
- Check that the Internet connections are secure. Before you give your payment information, there are various icons and software programs that indicate that security software is in place.
- Use the safest way to pay on the Internet. Pay for your order using a credit card. There are new payment options for users wary of putting their credit-card information on the Web. Some credit card companies offer temporary account numbers for their cardholders. These services will generate a random number that you can paste into a merchant's payment form. This limits exposing useful financial information to thieves and hackers. The merchant can't tell that you're using a temporary number, and the charge appears on your credit-card statement like a normal purchase. You can request a new number every time you shop or use the temporary number for multiple purchases, though each number can be used with only one merchant.
- Print the terms. You should print out and date a copy of terms, conditions, warranties, item description, company information, even confirming e-mails, and save them with your records of your purchase.
- Insure the safe delivery of your item. If you’re concerned about the safety of your package if there’s no one home to receive it, ask whether you can specify that the shipper must receive a signature before leaving the package. Or, it may be safer to have the package delivered to your office.
- Inspect your purchase. Look at your purchase carefully as soon as you receive it.
- Contact the seller as soon as possible if you discover a problem with it. Tell the seller in writing about any problem that you are concerned with, ask for a repair or refund, and keep a copy of your correspondence.
When Shopping With Children
- Teach your children to stay with you at all times while shopping. They should always check with you or the person in charge before they go anywhere. Always supervise your children in a public facility and accompany young children to the restroom.
- Make a plan in case you become separated. Have older kids meet you in a pre-designated spot (e.g. the sales counter or mall information booth). Teach younger children to look for people who can help within the store or mall — a uniformed security officer, a salesperson with a nametag, a mother with children, etc. They should never leave the store/mall or go to the parking lot to look for you or your car.
- Leave clothing that displays your children’s names at home, as it can prompt unwelcome attention from people who may be looking for an opportunity to start a conversation with your children.
- Never leave children in toy stores or public facilities (e.g. video arcades, movie theaters, playgrounds) and expect store personnel to supervise your children.
- Have older children take a friend, if you allow them to go shopping or to public functions without you. It’s more fun and much safer. Older children should check in with you on a regular basis while they are out. Agree on a clear plan for picking them up including: where, what time, and what to do in case of a change in plans.