Q: I’m an incurable bargain hunter and I thrive on finding incredible deals. I’m really looking forward to Black Friday, but I worry about the risks. From the possibility of being trampled or getting into a fistfight with a fellow shopper, to the chance that my shopping bags will be stolen or that my credit card will be frauded, there’s so much that can go wrong! How can I protect myself without missing out on the biggest shopping day of the year?
A: While it’s true that Black Friday does pose some serious risks to shoppers, it doesn’t mean you need to miss out on any deals. With the proper safety measures and precautionary steps, you can happily join the bargain-hungry crowds flocking to malls and shopping centers on Nov. 24.
1.) Plan ahead
Black Friday is not the time for aimless browsing. Planning ahead means you’ll spend less, be out of the store faster and decrease your risk of running into trouble. Sites like BlackFriday.com can help you plan your day, map out a route and find the best deals before you hit the mall.
2.) Credit card only
They may be trickier with your budget, but credit cards are the best way to shop when there are high risks to your safety. You can always dispute a charge; you can never reclaim stolen cash. Be sure to keep your card as close to you as possible. If you use a debit card, always cover the payment terminal with your second hand when inputting your PIN. –>
3.) Shop with a friend
There’s safety in numbers. The mall may be crowded, but a determined criminal can always find a way to corner you and then empty your wallet or take your shopping bags. The presence of crowds can make it impossible to find shoplifters after they’ve committed the crime. Stick with your friends at all times and never enter deserted areas alone.
4.) Keep your cool
It might be a great bargain, but nothing you can purchase on Black Friday is worth your health or safety. Keep your priorities straight and avoid all scuffles or squabbles with fellow shoppers. If things get ugly, that’s your cue to leave the store.
5.) Move your car
If you’re spending the day at a shopping mall and routinely run out to your car to drop off your bags when they’re getting heavy, it’s best to move your car to a different spot, preferably on the other side or on another level of the parking lot. Believe it or not, thieves actually watch shoppers leaving the mall with lots of bags. They’ll follow you out, and if they see you leaving loads of goodies in your car before heading back to the mall, they’ll break into your car and make off with your things. If you drive off, though, they’ll think you’re leaving and won’t follow you.
It’s also a good idea to hide your bags when they’re stored in your car. Nothing says, “Break the window and take me!” like a bunch of bulging shopping bags in the passenger seat. Keep the loot safely stowed in your trunk. If you drive an SUV or another trunk-less car, keep your stuff in the back and cover it with a blanket.
6.) Online safety
It’s always important to follow basic online safety rules, but Black Friday and its follow-up, Cyber Monday, are notorious for online scams of every kind. Here’s what to remember when shopping online:
Beware of phishing scams
Scammers know you’re loaded down with receipts, confirmation emails and the like. They also know you’re less likely to check the safety of every email and link you receive. Don’t play their game. Be alert for suspicious-looking emails or links, and delete anything that doesn’t look right. If a site asks for more information than it should need for a purchase, leave your purchases and exit the site fast!
Make sure your connection is secure
Avoid lurking scammers by using a secure connection. Verify security by looking for the padlock icon on your address bar and by using sites with the “S” tacked on to the”‘http.”
Only use trusted payment systems like PayPal or GoogleWallet. Shop from sites you know and trust. Make sure they’re legitimate by checking the URL of the site and looking out for sites that end in .org or .net. Never agree to wire money for a purchase.
Strengthen your system
Before shopping online, check that your device’s security systems are updated with the most recent protection and security patches. If you’re using Wi-Fi, make sure the network is secure and requires a password to join.
Shop safely and shop wisely this Black Friday!
Do you have tips for safe shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Share them with us in the comments!