The key to shopping safety

We hate to be alarmists, but, this morning we pried open the 7th paper door on our Advent calendar, exposing more than a tasty chocolate rocking horse. We also exposed our lack of preparedness and predisposition to holiday angst. It’s time to face reality, the countdown is on, and we’re down to 18 shopping days until Christmas and only one before the 8 days of Hanakkuh start tommorrow.

No need for concern … yet. Local retailers are happy to help with great gift ideas and inspiration, and our friends at the mall are staying late to offer their assistance, too, as we search for the perfect gift for Cousin Sue and dear Aunt Helen.

While you’re making a list and checking it twice, here are some shopping safety tips, courtesy of the National Crime Prevention Council:

•Don’t buy more than you can carry.

Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder-surf to get your account information.

Save your receipts (and, when asked if you want the receipt with you or in the bag, the proper response should always be “with me”).

Print and save all confirmations from online purchases. Start a file to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.

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

Do not leave packages visible through your car windows. Lock them in the trunk, or, if possible, take them directly home. You’ve looked long and hard for these presents, why risk being a smash and grab victim?

Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside your coat or front trouser pocket.

When it comes to online shopping:

•Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you personally initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.

Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.

Following a few simple safety rules and channeling your inner skeptic can help assure that you don’t become a victim this year of anything more than a healthy dose of seasonal anxiety.