Bangor police offer tips for safe holiday shopping

Posted Nov. 25, 2009, at 8:55 p.m.

Black Friday is nearly upon us again, kicking off another holiday shopping season. In order to help make your holidays more enjoyable help you avoid being a victim of theft, the Bangor Police Department offers these safety tips.

Personal safety tips

The threat of physical assault does not necessarily increase along with the crowds that herald the holiday season. It’s when you’re far from the crowd, in distant reaches of parking lots or other isolated areas of the mall, that you are most vulnerable. To protect yourself:

— Always try to walk to and from your vehicle with another person. If you are shopping alone, consider walking near other shoppers in the parking lot.

— If shopping alone and leaving at night — particularly if you’re carrying several bundles — ask a security officer or store employee to accompany you to your car. Most malls and stores will provide that service.

— Never use a video arcade or toy store as a baby sitter; predators are on the prowl for unattended children.

Pickpockets and purse theft prevention

Jostling through crowded malls while carrying your jacket, juggling countless bags and keeping your child from breaking anything you can’t afford to buy makes you an attractive target to criminals looking to grab wallets, purses and your purchases. To stymie would-be thieves:

— A man should carry his wallet in the front pocket of his pants, rather than in a back pocket or in his jacket.

— A woman should hold her purse close to her body, with the opening facing toward her; Women should never leave their purses unattended in shopping carts.

— Consolidate purchases into one or two large shopping bags so you can keep track of everything.

— Never leave your purchases unattended, even for a few minutes.

Parking lot and car safety

As parking areas fill during the holiday season, shoppers often are forced to park far from mall exits, sometimes in poorly lighted areas. Now that there is less daylight, you’re likely to find yourself entering the mall while the sun is up and leaving after dark, so make sure there are lights nearby before parking. If possible do your shopping during daylight hours. Some other parking tips include:

— Park as close to entrances and exits as you can. No one wants to circle the lot for an hour waiting for a good spot to open up, but give it a shot, at least for a few minutes.

— If your purchases are in plain view, you may return to find your car windows smashed and your presents stolen. Always use your trunk to store your purchases. Save your most expensive purchases for last, so you can head straight home.

— Have your keys ready when you approach your vehicle.

ATM safety

— To protect yourself, handle your bank card with the same prudence you would cash or credit cards and keep it in a safe place.

— Memorize your PIN so you won’t have to write it on your card or a piece of paper and carry it in your purse or wallet. And keep your PIN to yourself — if others are nearby waiting to use the ATM, don’t let them see which buttons you press.

— Choose a bank with an ATM located in a highly visible, well-lighted area.

— If you must withdraw money from an ATM after dark, have someone accompany you. Also, try not to make large cash withdrawals.

— If you see anyone loitering near the machine who looks or acts suspicious, walk away.

— Never leave your receipt in the machine. Also, keep your receipts so you can check them against your monthly bank statements.

— Carry less cash. Try to use credit cards and checks. They can be easily canceled and replaced, cash can’t.

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