Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre is offering safety tips for consumers to protect themselves while shopping at stores and online. Retail outlets are advertising significant price cuts and other deals this week in an effort to lure customers. Unfortunately, these deals and the increased number of shoppers tend to lure criminals as well.
“Criminals do not take time off for the holidays,” said Sheriff Webre. “Deputies are conducting extra patrols around shopping centers and stores to keep consumers safe, but there are several ways you can protect yourself and minimize your risk of becoming a victim.”
- PARKING: Park your vehicle in a well-lit area away from large objects. Lock your vehicle. Never leave keys in the vehicle or leave it running unattended. Hide all purchases in the trunk or use blankets to conceal them.
- PAYMENT: Using a credit card is the safest method of payment. Only keep cash on you in the amount necessary. If you need to enter a PIN, shield the keypad from bystanders. Save the most expensive purchases for last so they are in your vehicle only for a short time.
- RETURNING TO VEHICLE: Stay off your phone to avoid distraction. Locate your keys before leaving the store. Check the backseat before entering your vehicle. Upon entering, lock your doors immediately. Change parking locations each time you return to your vehicle.
Con artists may try to distract you to steal your money or belongings. Be wary of anyone approaching you needing “quick cash” or offering you a large check for a smaller amount of cash. Consider shopping with a partner since criminals are more likely to target someone shopping alone. If possible, avoid bringing children shopping as they can hinder your safety by diverting your attention.
Here are a few tips for online shoppers:
- Look for the “secure” icon in the address bar, or check that the website address begins with “https.”
- Avoid phishing scams by typing the address of the website instead of clicking a link.
- Only shop with companies you know and trust.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi when shopping from a mobile device.
- Ensure packages will be delivered to a person at a home or office, or opt to pick up the package at a store.
Once your purchases have made it to your home, follow these precautions:
- Always keep your doors and windows locked.
- Keep blinds or curtains closed to ensure merchandise and gifts are not visible from outside.
- Break down large boxes for high-value items instead of placing them near the roadside.
- Place all trash in black or dark-colored garbage bags.
- Avoid any social media posts indicating you are not home.
If your family is vacationing during the holidays for an extended period of time, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check on your house daily. Have them pick up any mail and newspapers to avoid the appearance that no one is home.
All shoppers should save receipts and order confirmations as these are key in tracking down stolen property. If your credit card is lost, stolen, or misused, immediately notify your credit card issuer. If you know your card to have been stolen or if fraudulent charges appear on your account, you should also contact the Sheriff’s Office to file a complaint. If possible, consumers are encouraged to always monitor online banking records for fraudulent activity, especially during the holiday season.
Citizens are also advised to be wary of phone scams, especially for fake charities, which tend to occur during the holiday season. Always attempt to verify a charity by researching online, and NEVER give personal or financial information over the phone to an incoming caller.