It’s that time of year again when we start shopping up a storm to take advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on offer and in preparation for the festive season. But don’t get so absorbed in the bargain hunting that you forget about your safety. Here are some precautions for you to keep in mind to ensure you have a pleasant shopping experience.
Safe online shopping
Rather opt to shop online in the safety of your own home. It should save you time, and money spent on fuel. Plus, it can keep you out of harm’s way – we’ve all seen how crazy the crowds in the stores can get.
But do your research and make sure you are buying from reputable and authentic retail websites that are secured for online shopping – look for the https in the browser address. Don’t use public Wi-Fi, as this makes it easier for hackers to steal your personal information. Also, keep your profile information and passwords confidential like you would your bank account number and pin.
It’s best to use a credit card rather than a debit card for online purchases, particularly a virtual credit card through your banking app, with a dynamic CVV for added protection, if your provider offers this. Either way, monitor your bank statements for any fraudulent activity and keep a record of your purchases in case you encounter a problem.
If a deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is!
If possible, rather have your online purchases delivered to your work address, as this may be a safer option than a home delivery. But if you need to have the goods delivered to your house, have safety steps worked out that minimise the risk of your home being invaded, or your and your family’s safety being compromised.
You wouldn’t normally invite strangers into your home, and the same applies with home deliveries. Before opening the door or gate, verify the identification of the person. Also, look for activity in the street that might indicate that the delivery van is being followed.
When ordering goods online, you usually get a notification of delivery date and, sometimes, time. Use these notifications to help with verifying that you are opening for the correct person, but also to prepare for the delivery. This way you can make sure that the delivery occurs as quickly as possible, and that you don’t keep the delivery personnel waiting outside your gate, which could attract negative attention. For big-ticket items, like a big screen TV, consider receiving the delivery inside your premises with the gate closed, to minimise attracting unwanted attention.
Have a plan that you can put into action in the event of an emergency situation. Try to ensure someone in the house observes your interactions with delivery personnel so they can request help if necessary.
Safety at a mall
Do online or in-person research beforehand, so that you know exactly where you are going and how to get there. Use a maps app to plan the best route to take advantage of the deals available in-store. This will also save you time and money spent on fuel.
Park your car in a well-lit, properly secured parking area, ideally with security guards on duty. When you leave your car, make sure the doors are properly locked. If you subscribe to proactive early warning services through your tracking company, ensure that you have your key tag and any other early warning mechanisms that are activated via your app.
Importantly, if you drive a keyless entry vehicle, place your key inside a Faraday pouch as soon as you have locked your vehicle before you walk away. Members of criminal syndicates routinely follow unsuspecting shoppers into a mall and amplify their key signal back to an accomplice waiting near the target car with a relay amplifier. The vehicle can thereafter be efficiently opened, started and driven away within seconds. Consider disabling your keyless entry function through consultation with your dealership.
Carry as little as possible with you, leaving unnecessary bank or store cards and large amounts of cash at home. Never leave a bag, purse or wallet in a trolley, rather carry it on you. Keep your wallet or purse in the front pocket of your jacket or trousers. Avoid walking around with your phone in your hand or against your ear. Rather put it away.
Be present while in public spaces. It only takes a distracted moment to be misled or for a mobile phone, wallet, or bag to be snatched away. Ensure that you are aware of your surroundings and able to get away should the need arise.
Avoid using bathrooms that are tucked away in a back area of a mall concourse or department. Also, know where the security stations are. Take a moment to familiarise yourself with where you are, and where to go in case of an emergency.
Save your most expensive purchases for last, so you can head straight home. Be aware when you’re leaving the store or mall, particularly if you’re carrying several shopping bags. Perhaps ask a security guard to accompany you to your car.
Pack your purchases in the boot. Leaving your purchases in plain view makes you an easy target for criminals. Remember that even after you have left the mall you should remain vigilant as you could still be a target. Criminals might follow you home and rob you.
“Don’t let your guard down, whether shopping online or in-store. Spend within your means and if something doesn’t seem right, or it feels unsafe, trust your gut,” says Duma Ngcobo, Chief Operating Officer at Tracker. “If you indulge in some extravagant purchases, don’t leave the boxes outside with your trash for everyone to see. Criminals will then know exactly what you have for them to steal. Rather dispose of the boxes at a recycling depot – it’s better for the environment too.”