Crime

Shopping on Black Friday? Here’s how not to get ripped off at the mall.

Shoppers at Walmart in Doral get an early start before Black Friday in November 2016.
Shoppers at Walmart in Doral get an early start before Black Friday in November 2016. Miami Herald File

The holiday shopping season is here. Hello, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We all will try to get the best deals. Criminals are in the same state of mind, looking for potential easy victims.

So let’s look at some ways we can deter them from ruining our holiday spirit.

Women, is it really necessary to carry a purse at all times? It may be wiser to just put the essentials, such as keys, credit cards and ID cards, in your pockets or fanny pack. If you must take a purse, use one that crosses your body, and keep it always in front of you, making it harder for someone to grab. Carry as little cash and as few credit cards as possible.

Men, put your wallet in your front pockets to avoid pickpockets. It’s easier to steal a wallet from your back pocket than the front pocket, especially if you are dealing with a distraction team.

Be aware of camera phones. There have been instances in which these phones have been used to steal someone’s merchandise.

Here’s how it works: You’re standing in line making your purchases while the person behind you is pretending to be on the phone. That person is actually taking a picture of you.

By the time you have finished paying, that picture has been sent to a contact outside. They’ll follow you to your car and either wait for you to put all the merchandise in your trunk and you continue shopping, or they will follow you home and break into your trunk.

Here’s how to protect yourself from this scheme. When you’re shopping — and this usually happens when you’re buying big items such as electronics — don’t go to your car and leave the packages in your trunk and then continue shopping. You need to move your car if you’re in the same mall or shopping center.

When you go home, remove all your purchases from the trunk before doing anything else, including running inside to use the restroom. Pay attention to your surroundings and look for tell-tale signs such as a car or a pedestrian near your home. If someone is home ask them to come outside; if it’s dark outside, make sure the porch lights are on.

When using an ATM to make withdrawals, make sure it is in a well-lit area. Once you get your money, wait until you get into your car to count the cash, with the windows up and doors locked. An added recommendation is turn on your car alarm, or have someone go with you.

Many malls and shopping areas are working with law enforcement to keep crime down. But the police cannot be everywhere.

Be safe, be alert and call the police if you see anything suspicious. Place the non-emergency phone number in your cell phone for your area so have it handy or just dial 911.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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