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5 ways to stay safe, happy and stress-free this Black Friday
FCN Holiday Shopping Safety 112318
Photo by Laura Marques on Unsplash

If you are one of the millions getting ready to join the rush on scandalously-priced electronics, clothes and other household items, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office says that you should take a moment with your bargain hunting party to make a plan and consider some of the risks that are posed during the upcoming holiday shopping frenzy.

According to Cpl. Doug Rainwater, a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, safety in the holiday shopping season all boils down to using common sense, having patience and trusting your gut.

“If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t,” Rainwater said.

With that in mind, he said there are several tips to think about when shopping in-person, online and after the shopping is done to make sure that you are not a victim this holiday season.

Always lock your car doors and never leave packages or valuables visible in your vehicle

Rainwater said that during this season, the most common crime they see is smash-and-grab thefts from parked unattended vehicles, usually precipitated by people leaving vehicles unlocked or valuables in plain sight.

He said the easiest way to diffuse this type of crime is by hiding valuables from sight, in a trunk or under a blanket, and locking your vehicle every time it is unattended.

"If a criminal sees you putting an Apple [brand] bag in your car and you walk away to a different store, well there’s a good chance that Apple bag will be gone and your window will be busted out," he said.

Be aware of your surroundings

Rainwater said that even though Forsyth County does not have a problem with robberies, it’s good common sense to know your surroundings at all times when out shopping. Distracted shoppers make prime targets for criminals anywhere, he said.

"In a busy season like this, you should always be aware," he said.

Be wary of buying online

Rainwater said that for anyone doing their shopping at home, the biggest thing is to be aware of where you are making purchases.

He said shoppers should try to pay through secure vendors like PayPal and shouldn’t hesitate to research unfamiliar sites before making a purchase.

The sheriff’s office does not necessarily see an uptick in online scams during this season, he said, but with more people going online to buy gifts and expensive items, it’s a good time to reiterate online safety tips. 

Be wary of email scams and don’t click on links from unknown senders, he said, explaining that online sellers should never ask for information like your Social Security number or birthday.

"If you get an email supposedly from a company, and they want you to provide additional information, that should be something that you immediately delete,” he said. “Just delete it." 

After the shopping is done

Rainwater said that another common crime they see every Christmas season is packages being stolen off porches and out of mailboxes.

According to Rainwater, criminals drive from neighborhood to neighborhood stealing packages and have been known to follow delivery trucks on their route.

"We recommend if you are going to be gone for an extended period of time and you've ordered something, contact a neighbor and ask them to pick up your packages," he said. "Bad guys can now drive up and down subdivision streets and steal, especially if they see a UPS truck or a FedEx truck in a subdivision."

If you can’t retrieve packages delivered to your home immediately, Rainwater said to ship expensive items to a secure location, like your place of employment or a neighbor’s house, so that they will not be unattended in plain view for long periods of time.

Keeping your cool

Rainwater said that with the large number of people that are going to be out and about on the roads and in the community for the holiday season, having patience for your fellow citizens is a big thing to remember. 

“You've got to give a little bit during these seasons,” he said. “Just remember that even though you might be having a happy Thanksgiving or a happy Christmas, there's a lot of people you interact with out there, they might not be having a good day."   

He said that escalating even minor annoyances can turn dangerous, and losing your cool ultimately isn’t worth it.

"The bottom line is, don't start something out on these busy roads during the holiday season," he said. "And if someone cuts you off, wave instead of beating your head against the steering wheel."

Quick tips

Shopping in-person

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Distracted shoppers make prime targets for criminals;
  • Don’t carry or display large amounts of cash;
  • If shopping with children, have a plan for if you get separated;
  • Always lock your car doors and never leave packages or valuables visible in your vehicle.

Shopping online

  • Shop at websites you trust;
  • Avoid shopping online via public Wi-Fi connections;
  • Be wary of email scams and don’t click on links from unknown senders.

After the shopping is done

  • Check your bank statements weekly for unauthorized charges;
  • Retrieve packages delivered by mail immediately;
  • Ship expensive items so that they will not be unattended in plain view for long periods of time;
  • Avoid displaying expensive purchases online or leaving packaging at the curb.