Christmas is less than a week away – if you’re in the same boat as many of my colleagues, you’ll be at the mall this weekend doing some last-minute shopping.

Today, I want to provide some quick shopping safety tips on how you can take an active role in protecting yourself while shopping this – or any other – weekend.

Just remember S.A.N.T.A.

Secure

From the time you pull into the parking lot at the mall to the moment you get in your car to go home, your car door should be locked.  But it doesn’t stop there, be sure to keep your purse zipped and men should keep their wallets in an inside coat pocket or a front pants pocket.  Try to put all of your purchases in one bag to avoid fumbling with an armful of bags which could distract you from keeping an eye on those around you. If you have multiple pockets, be sure to keep them all zipped to avoid losing cash, credit cards, licenses and the ever-important Christmas List/Honey-Do-List!

Aware

While walking through the parking lot and the mall itself, continue to be aware of your surroundings.  Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by looking at your phone or listening to headphones.  Be particularly aware of your surroundings if you are shopping for high-end items such as jewelry – not just in the store but also in the parking lot, on the street and as you enter your home.  It’s not uncommon for theft rings to observe high-end transactions from a distance and later take advantage of you when others are not around.

Note

When you arrive at the mall, look for a map so you can take note of where the nearest exits will be in case of a fire or other emergency.  Be sure to locate where you can find the information desk, emergency call boxes, mall security center, property management office and if there is a police substation at the mall in case you need assistance.

Teamwork

At this happy but hectic time of year, its best to build a “last minute shopping team”. Whenever possible, shop with a friend, relative or colleague. Groups of two or more can watch out for one another in stores and parking lots, especially at night. Building on the team concept, after every purchase, run through a quick “Q & A” with your friend and ask the following:

  • “Do you have your credit card/debit card”?
  • “Do you have your receipts”?
  • “Do you have your gifts/gift bags?”
  • “Do you have your license?”
  • “Do you have your keys?”
  • “Do you have your cell phone?”
  • Most importantly, ask this key wrap-up question: “Do you remember where we parked?”

When shopping with children, the team approach is quite effective too. For example, when you first arrive at the mall, instruct them on where to go and who to ask for help if you get separated.  Show them what a security officer looks like and how to identify store personnel who can help them.  Make sure they know to stay put if they feel lost and to never leave the mall to look for you near the car.  For older children who are allowed to shop with their friends, instruct them to check in with you throughout the day at a set location and at a certain time.

Assistance

If you are shopping alone or late at night, ask a mall security officer or police officer to escort you to your car.  Also, if shopping late at night, always go with a friend or a group.  Ask for assistance if you cannot remember where you parked to keep from wandering the parking lot – with all your purchases.

Keep S.A.N.T.A. in mind this weekend to give yourself some peace of mind while shopping.  Happy Holidays!