Stuffed with pecan and pumpkin pies and well rested thanks to the effects of turkey’s tryptophan, Black Friday is notoriously the biggest shopping day of the year. If you are courageous and determined enough to brave the crowds, keep in mind these helpful tips to battle the bad guys and make your Black Friday shopping both successful and safe.
1) Crowd Surge
Deep discounts draw out the crowds vying for those big ticket items. While most stores have heeded the warnings and created orderly lines for entry, crowds can get unpredictable and dangerous. If you plan to participate in these events, think twice about bringing young children who can get lost in the barrage, and keep your physical safety in mind.
2) Plastic Debate
If you have the option, carry and pay with a credit card versus your debit card. Sadly, bad guys can snatch your card numbers with a skimmer just by walking by you. If this happens, fraudulent charges on a credit card will automatically be removed or reimbursed, while a debit card won’t; your money may be gone forever. Even if your bank agrees to repay you, this could take weeks or months. Also, never leave your wallet on the counter at checkout. Bad guys use crowds and distractions to quickly grab and go. Ideally, shop with just the cards you’ll need that day, not your entire wallet.
3) Cash In Hand
While paying with a credit card is still the best option, if you must pay with cash to make budgeting easier, there are many precautions to consider. First, while withdrawing money at an ATM machine, be sure to use the machines inside a store or bank versus outside. While paying for your merchandise, take your time; don’t let the cashier rush you. Be observant, especially when paying with large bills. Count your change thoroughly and if larger bills ($20s, $50s) don’t look or feel legit, ask the cashier to exchange for another bill. They may be counterfeit.
4) Gift Cards Are for Giving
Sadly, scammers have taken to requesting bills be paid with gift cards. This is a huge red flag. Never pay a bill with a gift card. Gift cards are meant to be gifted. Also, if you are purchasing gift cards, be sure to grab from the back of the rack. SKU numbers on cards toward the front to the display can often be compromised, meaning if a bad guy has photographed or written down the numbers, once you activate the card, they can plug in the SKU numbers for redemption.
5) Coming and Going Safely
Parking lots can be sketchy on any given day; even more so during the holiday shopping season. There are so many factors to consider. First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings. If someone or something doesn’t feel right, trust that gut intuition and turn around and go back to where you came from. Solicit a sales person or security guard to walk you to your car. If you choose to go it alone, zigzag to your car, eyeballing it from afar. Make sure there isn’t anything on the windshield – a flier, a cracked egg – anything that would distract you from getting safely in your car. These tactics are designed to distract you. Lastly, if leaving valuables and gifts in the car, place them in the trunk of your car out of sight.
6) Receipt for Your Payment
This tip is twofold. When checking out, pay attention; be sure what’s rung up matches the sticker price. Oftentimes, discounts aren’t plugged into the computer yet. Secondly, hold onto your receipts, double check them, and don’t discard them outside the store. Predators will snatch receipts out of the trash, returning to the store to claim they purchased the item on the receipt.
7) Separated from Your Shopping Pals?
This one comes in handy especially if you have young children shopping with you. Before you venture out, set a meeting spot in case you become separated. For young children, create a code word as well so they don’t venture off with a stranger. If your child needs help finding the meeting spot, instruct them to approach a sales person or security guard - typically someone with a badge.