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Criminals will be taking advantage of careless shoppers
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Now with Black Friday behind us, the holiday shopping season has moved into high gear. The stores are already very busy with shoppers, traffic is congested and slow-moving near business centers, and already, people are showing frustration and impatience with one another. At the same time, criminals are also ramping up their action, taking advantage of careless or unsuspecting shoppers.

People should expect the holiday season to be a bit more challenging than other times of the year with the busy stores and traffic congestion; it is like this every year, and frankly, it is a mindset issue. Being in a hurry and showing irritation will accomplish nothing. Pragmatic shoppers should plan to do their buying and traveling during morning or late evening hours to avoid the frustrating lines, the parking lot conflicts and slow moving traffic on the roadways. During these times, the best thing to do is keep a positive attitude, smile and be friendly and everyone will have a better time.

In terms of criminal activity, this is the time of year when criminals ply the shopping center parking lots looking for people who leave valuables in their cars. Keeping cars locked is a good idea, but thieves are good at breaking windows and using other devices to quickly gain entry. The best thing to do to prevent theft is to leave nothing of value in your car while shopping. Purses, wallets, smart phones, computers, jewelry, CDs and presents left in vehicles are an invitation to thieves to steal from you. Keep in mind that thieves are constantly "casing" parking lots. They may be watching as shoppers place items in a trunk or when they leave a purse or other valuable personal items in the car. And once you enter the store, the criminal knows that they will have at least several minutes before the potential victim returns.

Since no vehicle is immune from being broken into, some people have resorted to installing small safes in non-visible locations inside the car. A quality safe that is bolted into the floorboard can be very difficult to get into, let alone removed from the car. People who regularly carry valuables that they do not wish to carry with them should consider the car safe idea. Of course, the entire vehicle could be stolen, but that is a lesser likelihood.

Thieves are also busy inside the stores, stealing not only from the store but from shoppers. Women (and men) who carry bags, backpacks or purses should not leave these items unattended in shopping carts.It takes but a few seconds for someone to quickly and silently take a purse from a shopping cart, with the victim having seen nothing and having no idea who the thief might be. When I shop these days, I see a surprisingly large number of instances where people have left their purse or wallet in a shopping cart several feet away from them - it is a theft waiting to happen. If a wallet or purse is stolen or lost, be sure to report it to store security at once, notify the police without delay and inform your banks and credit card companies. It is smart to have your account numbers and credit card company phone numbers listed in a place separate from your wallet or purse.

We cannot account for nor prevent all thefts that might happen during the holiday season, but it is prudent to increase awareness and precautions to eliminate thieves' temptations to steal from you by keeping things out of sight and by making things more difficult for them. Be vigilant, use common sense and be aware of your surroundings to protect your possessions and yourselves.

I wish you a wonderful holiday season!