Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jay Baker said theft is always a concern during the holiday shopping season.
“Not just Black Friday, but the holiday shopping season in general always raises concerns of theft. Often people become desperate during this time and will resort to taking other people’s property,” Baker said. “Fortunately in Cherokee it is not common for thieves to snatch items from would-be victims, but it never hurts to remind shoppers to be aware of their surroundings, shop with friends or family and keep a good grip on your belongings.”
Better Business Bureau President and CEO Fred Elsberry said most items that are stolen from cars because shoppers leave their new products in plain view of the windows and entice would-be thieves.
“One of the main reasons people break into cars is because everything is sitting out there on the back seat, so I always tell people to be sure to put it in the trunk, lock it up and keep it out of view, and that way you won’t have to worry too much about your car being vandalized,” Elsberry said.
Baker agreed, and said if people are going to leave items in their car to continue shopping, “always put those items in the trunk, if possible, at a minimum keep them out of view from would-be thieves.”
Baker also urged shoppers to be careful and patient, as traffic is expected to be heavy as consumers flock to shopping centers this weekend.
“Traffic will likely be an issue around retail areas on Friday. Expect some delays and be patient with other drivers,” Baker said.
Another safety tip Elsberry offered shoppers was to be cautious at ATMs.
“Be cautious using ATM machines, using debit cards is very convenient but of course the scammers are out there putting skimmer devices in ATMs and also opportunity thieves are looking for people that are going to ATMs, so we encourage people to use ATMs that are in the middle of a mall not in a corner, because the corner always has a blind spot,” Elsberry said. “Also, don’t let people look over your shoulder, don’t count your money
at the machine, just the type of things that are prudent to do at any time of the year, double your efforts.”
Elsberry said that ATM users should examine the machine before putting their card in, to be sure it doesn’t look tampered with. This way, they can avoid obvious scam devices that some thieves place inside the ATM to steal information.
“If the machine looks like it’s not working properly, if it has a loose piece where you put the card in, kind of inspect it a little bit before you put your card in because a skimmer just fits right into where you put your card. It’s a very thin device and it’ll take the information off of your card,” Elsberry said. “If a machine looks like it’s been tampered with at all, go to another machine. Don’t take a chance.”
Elsberry suggested that using credit cards instead of debit cards during holiday shopping would offer consumers better protection, in the event that they need to return a product or have a problem with a purchase.
Budgeting can alleviate the sting of holiday spending, and help make the holidays better for families, he said.
“It’s a good idea all the time, but especially around the holidays. You should make a budget, you should know how much you have to spend on gifts, and you need to really stick with that budget, because if you don’t, you’re going to find yourself coming out of the holiday season with more credit card debt than you can handle,” Elsberry said. “I’ll speak for myself, that always leads to depression for me, when I’ve got all that to deal with after. We encourage people to spend a little time before they go shopping, to decide who they’re going to give to, how much they’re going to spend on them.”
Elsberry suggested that baking homemade gifts can be one way to save money and stay in budget.
“It’s important to know what you can afford to spend over the holidays,” he added.
The Better Business Bureau also suggests that shoppers plan ahead to get the best deals this Friday.
Elsberry said researching prices and saving coupons from the Sunday paper can get consumers the lowest prices.
“Do your research and know where you’re going to go,” he said. “Know what you’re looking for and research these places before you go, so you know where the special offers are, where the good deals are, and know what you’re going to do so you’re not wasting a lot of your time and effort.”