‘Tis the season to buy gifts for family and friends, but in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, you may be the target of opportunistic crooks. Yuletide bandits often zero in on unsuspecting older adults. But here are a number of holiday safety tips to keep your purchases safe from sticky fingers.
Keep on the alert when shopping. Would-be holiday criminals look for easy ways to score cash and merchandise. When leaving your car at the mall and shopping centers this holiday season, always keep your vehicle’s doors and windows locked. If you can, park in a well-lit area or close to a store entrance. Do not leave your valuables or shopping packages in plain sight. Many seniors who tire easily or cannot carry a number of packages at once will take a trip to the car to unload items and return to the store for a second round of shopping. Crooks often wait and watch for people who use their vehicles for storing just-purchased items.
Don’t fumble for your car keys. When you initially park your car at the mall or store, make note of where you parked so when you leave you are not wandering around aimlessly with a load of packages in your hands. Digging around in your pockets or purse for your car key is an open invitation for parking lot plunderers to accost you and not just steal your holiday packages but get away with your vehicle too.
Put your keys in your hand before you leave the store and walk determinedly to your vehicle. If you sense trouble lurking, trigger the panic button on your car key, if you have one. Or, yell “stop thief,” “police” or any bold words you choose to scare off a potential thief. Carrying and knowing how to use a self-defense spray also may give you the edge if an on-the-prowl robber comes too close.
Be watchful on your home front. During the holidays in particular, porch thieves are known to follow package delivery trucks. That Xbox for your grandson? It could be nabbed in seconds right from your front steps if you’re not home to retrieve packages immediately. Most merchants will now email delivery notifications so you know when to expect those holiday purchases. If a loved one is sending you a gift, ask them to let you know of the expected delivery date. If the doorbell does ring, never feel compelled to open your door. Most delivery companies drive recognizable trucks and wear company shirts, but it is best to avoid opening your door to any stranger. If you’re expecting a package and can’t be home, arrange for a neighbor, relative or friend to retrieve the parcel for you.
While you want Santa to feel welcome on your premises, burglars are not allowed. Keep your windows and doors locked and set your indoor and outdoor lights on timers. And be sure thieves cannot look in your house and take stock of those decked-out holiday gifts under the tree.
With a little bit of wise precaution, you can ward off holiday hucksters, one shopping bag and UPS box at a time.
What holiday shopping safety tips do you advise for seniors?
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.