Holiday shopping enables you to treat your loved ones to a special surprise, but it also comes with some unfortunate risks. There’s always the possibility that your gifts won’t be appreciated, but that’s not the type of risk we’re talking about. Instead, it’s important for everyone to carefully consider the necessity of taking steps to protect themselves from a long list of potential holiday shopping related issues. By doing this now, you can take a safer and more realistic approach to crossing everything off your shopping list.
1. Be Cautious in Parking Lots
Parking lots can quickly turn into a madhouse during the holidays, which makes them much more dangerous to drive and walk through. Unfortunately, this isn’t even the worst thing you need to keep an eye on. Parking lots are one of the prime abduction spots for women and children. It might seem like this would be impossible with holiday shoppers everywhere, but the reality is that more people are distracted and criminals will wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. Sadly, parking garages are even worse.
Approximately 7.3 percent of all violent crimes happen in a parking lot or garage, and another 12.1 percent occur in commercial buildings such as stores and restaurants. By remaining cautious at all times, you can reduce your odds of becoming a victim. Always keep your car doors locked, and be sure to keep your keys handy as you walk through the parking lot.
2. Avoid Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud and identity theft is continuously on the rise, and you can be certain that these criminals will take advantage of the holidays. Your credit card will most likely be used much more frequently during the next couple of months. Therefore, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from credit card fraud, including closely monitoring your credit score and transaction records. You should also steer clear of paying at gas station pumps and other exterior places where credit card skimmers can easily be placed.
3. Stay Home on Black Friday
Yes, Black Friday has become a major shopping event, and you might even be able to score an amazing deal. However, most stores have a ridiculously small quantity of sale items on hand, and you can usually get the same deal online. In some cases, the online sales are even better than those in the physical stores.
Black Friday has become a recipe for disaster because shoppers are forced to stand in long lines, deal with huge crowds and compete for the best prices. Naturally, this leads to violence and numerous injuries every year. There have even been seven deaths attributed to Black Friday shopping. If you want to stay safe, it’s best to avoid all of this madness and shop online instead.
4. Don’t Overspend
Everyone wants to give their loved ones a special holiday. This is especially true for parents who have young children. Part of keeping them safe and happy, though, requires making wise financial choices.
The U.S. is currently dealing with an eviction epidemic, and millions of people will lose their home this year. San Francisco alone has approximately 2,000 annual evictions. Sadly, January and February are when a large percentage of these evictions happen because people overspend during the holidays. Make a realistic gift budget and stick with it to avoid this problem and protect your entire family.
5. Choose Safety Instead of the Hottest Toy
It is inevitable that one or two toys will become so highly sought after that they sell out nationwide. When this happens, some parents become obsessed with the idea of finding these items for their child. As a result, it is common to see hot toys for sale at ridiculously inflated prices on eBay and Craigslist.
If you have the money for this in your holiday shopping budget, then the price increase isn’t the risk you need to avoid. However, be sure that you choose a safe spot to meet up with anyone from Craigslist or any other local online marketplace. Some police stations have set up safe exchange zones in their parking lot. Even if your local station doesn’t have one of these designated areas, it’s still wise to meet in the parking lot.
6. Leave Your Children at Home
Busy stores are not only chaotic and no fun for a child but they also increase your risk of losing them in the crowd. Because of this, most police departments recommend leaving your kids in the care of a trusted babysitter when you have to go shopping during the holiday season. If this isn’t possible, be sure to always accompany them to the restroom. It’s also imperative to teach them to go to the customer service desk if they get separated from you.
7. Shop Online From Trusted Sites
Any website could get hacked, which might compromise your credit card and personal information. Of course, the same thing could happen if you shop in person. Therefore, it makes the most sense to choose your most trusted online sites and purchase holiday gifts from the safety of your home. This will make it easy to avoid crowds, parking lots, the need for a babysitter and many other issues that plague the biggest shopping season of the year.
If you must buy something from a site that isn’t well-known or doesn’t have a solid history of protecting consumer data, be sure to use a third-party payment processor to reduce your risk. For example, using PayPal is safer than paying directly with a credit card because the online store in question will not have access to your payment information.
8. Be Aware of Drunk Drivers
The night before Thanksgiving has become a drinking holiday, and this leads to a lot of drunk drivers and DUIs. The rest of the holiday season is also more dangerous than usual from this perspective. Be sure to remain vigilant on the roadways so that you avoid and report drunk drivers. Almost 10,000 people die annually due to drunk drivers, but you can reduce your risk by staying off the roads at night and driving defensively.
These tips may seem overly cautious or even put a slight damper on your holiday shopping mood, but they are an accurate reflection of reality. By putting these protective measures in place, you can help ensure that you won’t enter the New Year broke, injured or battling with credit card fraud. Don’t forget that you can also take advantage of cashback sites to save money while shopping for holiday gifts, and this is a great way to stretch your budget.
Featured photo credit: Antoine K via flic.kr