This holiday season, don’t let the spirit of giving lull you into giving muggers, thieves and pickpockets a better chance to do their dirty work. They do some of their biggest business during the holiday season. People are rushing around, stressed out and careless, trying to get everything done. It’s enough to make a crook giddy with holiday joy!

Here are some tips from the APS Risk Management on how to safely celebrate the holiday season:

Be extremely careful using ATM machines

  • Use them in populated places and be constantly paying attention to what’s going on around you.

  • Try to go during the daylight hours.

  • If you must go at night, pick a machine that is well lit and visible to passing traffic.

  • If anyone is lurking near the machine, pass it up and find another.

    At the Mall

  • Try to shop when the mall is less crowded, during the weekday, or at night when malls stay open late for holiday shoppers. Avoid the weekend rush, when it's easy to lose children among crowds.

  • Don't dangle your handbag from your shoulder. You are creating a perfect setup for a purse-snatcher. Instead, keep your purse tucked tightly under your arm, or better yet, don't even carry a purse. Wear a fanny pack facing the front instead. Besides allowing your hands to be free to hold onto or carry your child, you’ll eliminate the possibility of leaving your purse behind or having it stolen.

  • If you use pockets, place your checkbook, cash, or credit cards in your front pockets. Only bring one or two credit cards and a limited amount of cash with you.

  • Spread your money around in different pockets. That way a pickpocket can't clean you out in one fell swoop.

  • Avoid carrying your checkbook, cash, and credit cards all together in one wallet, because a thief who gets the whole package together can cash checks with your identification and run up a large credit card bill in a short amount of time. Keep your keys separate, too.

  • Don't "flash" large rolls of money in public. You never know who's watching!

  • Check to see you’ve been given back your card once you’ve paid for what you bought.

  • Watch your credit card slip being filled out - and make sure it's not passed through the machine more than once. Ask for your carbons.

  • Destroy the carbons, but keep your credit card receipts and check them against monthly bills.

  • Make a list of your major credit cards, their account numbers and the phone numbers to call if cards are lost. Keep this list at home.

  • If you’re not sure a shopping bag will be available, take one of your own to the mall.

  • Consolidate as many packages as possible, or make several trips to your car to deposit packages in the trunk. Don't allow yourself to become so burdened down with packages that you become a tempting target.

  • Avoid carrying large, heavy packages that block your vision and make you a target for purse-snatchers.

  • Keep an eye on your child. It's okay to let children look around and have fun while they shop, but they also need to understand that it's important to stay near their parents.

  • Bring a babysitter, friend or older child to help watch your youngest, especially when waiting in long lines.

  • Teach your son or daughter what to do in the event you get separated. The best option is to instruct your child to look for a security guard or police officer, or go to the customer service desk where people are trained to help.

    In the Parking Lot

  • Always park where there is plenty of light, not only around your car, but also from your car to the mall or store entrance.

  • Once your car is parked, familiarize yourself with its location so you can find it without delay.

  • Don't hesitate to ask for a security escort if you feel unsafe.

  • Use the trunk of your car to keep your packages out of sight.

  • Keep your car locked at all times.

  • When walking through parking lots, be sure that you are aware of your surroundings. Walk with authority. Don't look like a victim!

  • Have your keys in your hand before you go to your car.

    Tips for Shopping Online

    Information Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

  • Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable buying or bidding on an item over the web, or if you feel pressured to place your order immediately, maybe you shouldn’t.

  • Be knowledgeable about web-based auctions. Take special care to familiarize yourself not only with the rules and policies of the auction site itself but with the legal terms (warranties, refund policy, etc.) of the seller’s items that you wish to bid on.

  • Double check pricing. Whether the product is being sold as new or used, be suspicious of prices that are too good to be true. Also consider carefully whether you may be paying too much for an item, particularly if you’re bidding through an auction site. You may want to comparison shop, online or offline, before you buy.

  • Find and read the privacy policy. Read the privacy policy carefully to find out what information the seller is gathering from you, how the information will be used, and how you can stop the process. If a site does not have a privacy policy posted, you may not want to do business with that site. If it does have a privacy policy, there will probably be a link to it from the seller’s home page, or it could be included with the Legal Terms. For more on finding and understanding Legal Terms, click here.

  • Review the return, refund, and shipping and handling policies as well as the other legal terms. If you can’t find them, ask the seller through an e-mail or telephone call to indicate where they are on the site or to provide them to you in writing.

  • Check that the Internet connections are secure. Before you give your payment information, there are various icons and software programs that indicate that security software is in place. For more information on security, click here.

  • Use the safest way to pay on the Internet. Pay for your order using a credit card. Click here to see why paying with a credit card is the safest choice.

  • Print the terms. You should print out and date a copy of terms, conditions, warranties, item description, company information, even confirming e-mails, and save them with your records of your purchase.

  • Insure the safe delivery of your item. If you’re concerned about the safety of your package if there’s no one home to receive it, ask whether you can specify that the shipper must receive a signature before leaving the package. Or, it may be safer to have the package delivered to your office.

  • Inspect your purchase. Look at your purchase carefully as soon as you receive it. Contact the seller as soon as possible if you discover a problem with it. Tell the seller in writing about any problem that you are concerned with, ask for a repair or refund, and keep a copy of your correspondence.

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