Oliver: Shoppers can use these tips to lessen holiday headaches

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

’Tis the season when stores become crowded and stress makes even the most level-headed among us do some less than wise things. Distraction can cause us to lose our focus and let down our guard.

With so many details to take care of, it’s no wonder that we sometimes have trouble keeping it all straight. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share some holiday shopping tips from the National Crime Prevention Council. Of course, these are good reminders at any time of year.

When shopping in stores:

• Do not buy more than you can carry. Bring along a friend or ask a store employee for help to carry packages to the car.

• Save receipts. Print and save all confirmations from online purchases. Keep receipts together, and verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.

• Consider alternative options to pay for merchandise, such as one-time or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.

• Wait until asked to take out a credit card or checkbook. Prying eyes would love to get a peek at that account information.

• Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package.

When walking to or from a vehicle:

• Deter pickpockets by carrying purses close to your body or wallets inside coats or front trouser pockets.

• Have keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the vehicle before getting in.

• Do not leave packages visible through vehicle windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.

When shopping with children:

• Make a plan in case you are separated from each other. Select a central meeting place.

• Teach children to know they can ask store personnel or store security employees if they need help.

When shopping online:

• Secure personal computers by updating security software. Computers should have anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall.

• Keep personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” a password or credit card information unless you initiated contact.

• Beware of “bargains” from unfamiliar companies. If it sounds too good to be true …

• Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the locked padlock icon on 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.

More shopping tips can be found on the National Crime Prevention Council’s website at

Perhaps these tips won’t take away all the stress of the season, but they should lessen the chance of adding even more. Let’s be careful out there.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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