Use caution shopping this holiday, AAA says, online and in parking lots

AAA Oklahoma Modified: November 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm •  Published: November 21, 2012
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The hectic holiday shopping season means parking lots full of people and safety hazards and the heightened possibility of theft. But thieves aren’t just looking to steal newly-bought Christmas gifts, they’re also after your identity.

“We hope these tips keep shoppers motoring on their merry way, protecting drivers and consumers from seeing the Grinch during this busy time of year,” said AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai.

Parking Lot Safety

Eliminate distractions. Turn off and stow cell phones. Set up navigation and GPS devices before starting to drive.

· Watch for pedestrians. Remain cautious of pedestrians on crosswalks and moving in-between and behind cars. Be alert especially for children who are not always paying attention.

· Learn to play the outfield. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision.

· Don’t put yourself in a tight spot. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs, minivans or pickups where it might be hard to back out of the space. If you can’t see well enough to back out safely, get help from one of your passengers.

· Buckle up. Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure that everyone is strapped in a seat belt or child car seat while the car is in motion, even if it’s just a short trip to another part of the parking lot.

Keeping Your Identity Safe

To safeguard your personal information as you shop this season, AAA Financial Services offers these tips:

Use cash or credit only. Compromised debit information puts your money at risk because the card is directly linked to your bank account. Credit cards offer greater consumer protection and less liability than your bank card.

Clean out your wallet. Don’t carry excess credit cards or your Social Security card with you. For the cards you do carry, keep a copy of all account numbers and phone numbers in safe place at home.

Search before you swipe. Tech-savvy thieves use inconspicuous tools such as skimming devices to steal your card information at ATMs, gas pumps and other pay terminals. Don’t use swipe devices that look out of place. Be sure to shield your PIN number as you punch it in or ask the cashier to run your card through the register.

Shoppers searching for deals online are urged to exercise cyber safety:

Shop sites you trust. Stick with online retailers you recognize and make sure you are at their correct site.

Shop secure. Before submitting credit card information, make sure the website is secure by looking for “https://” instead of “http://” in front of the web address.

Stay off public Wi-Fi. Never use public wireless hotspots to do online shopping, banking or any activity that requires passwords or personal information.

Personal Safety

AAA cautions that crowded shopping malls, streets and parking lots can provide ample opportunity for theft during the holiday season.

Protect your presents by stowing shopping bags in the trunk. A thief can steal your gifts in a matter of seconds, so eliminate the temptation by keeping them out of sight. Keep a grip on your valuables.

Make sure your purse is secure in your hand, along with any valuables you may have just bought. Thieves are always looking for an easy “snatch and grab.”

Know who is around. Don’t be caught off guard. Keep an eye on what and who may be around you. If someone approaches your vehicle don’t be rude, but also do not roll down a window or open a door to a stranger.