Big deals, big risks: Thieves thrive on big shopping days

Shoppers stop to hear a demonstration outside the Macy\'s store at the Westfield Mall in Bethesda, Md on Black Friday. (WTOP/Thomas Warren)

WASHINGTON – The case of a 14-year-old boy robbed of his shopping bag outside Anne Arundel Mills Mall after a Black Friday shopping trip highlights the need for shopper safety awareness, police say.

The Baltimore Sun reports the victim told police he was accosted by five men as he walked out of a Bed Bath & Beyond store at about 2 a.m. on Friday. One suspect punched the boy, and another stole a bag with merchandise he had just bought.

While Black Friday is associated with bargains and early store hours, most shoppers don’t realize those purchases put them at risk. Thieves are ready for distracted shoppers who are carrying large loads and storing gifts in their car, police say.

The National Crime Prevention Council suggests these safety tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers.

Shopping in stores:

  • Do not buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or asking a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.
  • Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.
  • Don’t flash your cash. Consider alternative options to pay for your merchandise, such as one-time or multi-use disposable credit cards or money orders, including at online stores.
  • Wait until asked by a cashier before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.
  • Do not leave packages visible in your car. Lock them in the trunk, or if possible, take them directly home.

The dangers are more prevalent when shopping online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, experts at the NCPC say.

Making sure your security software is up-to-date before making of online purchases is always a good idea, experts say.

Online shopping safety tips:

  • Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to verify your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.
  • Beware of bargains from companies you are unfamiliar with – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.
  • Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company.
  • To avoid purchasing counterfeit products, carefully examine the products you want to buy for signs of missing information – manufacturing information, warranty, product codes, etc. – broken or missing safety seals, different or incomplete packaging and subtle or obvious changes to a company logo.

Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by AP and WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Advertiser Content