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Shop Safely This Holiday Season

The day after Thanksgiving is commonly known in the U.S. as Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year and traditionally the beginning of the holiday shopping season. While the holidays, and especially Black Friday, are a great time to score the best deals on the season's most highly sought-after products, they also bring additional safety risks to shoppers, particularly in a recessed economy. While most shopping experiences will be safe and civil, dangerous and sometimes deadly shopping situations can occur. Mobs of shoppers trampling employees and patrons, fierce and sometimes violent competition, con-artists and thieves counting on easy access to unprotected wallets and bags, and other crime increases require diligence on the part of all holiday shoppers. The following tips will help you avoid being a victim this holiday season.

Preparing at Home

Preparing at home can make your shopping trip much smoother and safer. Map out your shopping agenda, bring a shopping list, and only take with you what you will need for the shopping trip, minimizing the amount of cash and credit cards in your wallet. Before your trip, copy credit cards you will be bringing, front and back. This will provide a record of the card, as well as cancelation and fraud line numbers, in case of theft or loss. Pre-program important contact and emergency numbers into your cell phone and take it with you. Shopping in a group is safer than shopping alone. Be sure to discuss your meeting location, contact methods, and plans with your co-shoppers, in case of separation.

Parking Lots

Parking lots and structures are typically the most dangerous places at the mall. From distracted and tired drivers to thieves waiting for the right opportunity to relieve you of your purchases and shopping money, parking lots harbor a range of risks that you can minimize with the following practices:

Parking lots and structures are typically the most dangerous places at the mall. From distracted and tired drivers, to thieves waiting for the right opportunity to relieve you of your purchases and shopping money, parking lots harbor a range of risks that you can minimize with the following practices:

  • Park in a well-lit area as close to your destination as possible, and take note of where you parked. Once inside the building, note your parking location on your cell phone.
  • Be aware of pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the parking lot; pay close attention when backing out of a parking spot.
  • Consider valet parking during the holiday season, when many malls offer free or reduced fees.
  • Shop at destinations with regular mall security patrols and visible surveillance cameras, which provide an added layer of security and are a deterrent to criminals.
  • Keep your car locked and conceal any packages left in the car. Avoid returning to the store after placing packages in the car, where onlookers can see what you deposited. Don't leave your wallet, laptop, or other valuables in the car.
  • Have your keys in hand when leaving a store. If you feel uncomfortable walking to your car, ask a mall security officer for an escort.
  • Observe your surroundings when returning to your car, glancing under, around, and in your car as you are approaching it. If you notice anything suspicious, use the panic button on your vehicle's remote control key fob, and retreat to safety.
  • Enter your vehicle quickly and lock the doors immediately once inside; do not linger in your parked car.

In The Store

In the store, it is critical to be aware of your surroundings at all times and take measures to ensure your safety and protection of your belongings. Your state of alertness can mean the difference between a successful shopping trip and a disastrous one.

  • Keep purses and wallets sealed and close to your body. Carry wallets in your front pocket rather than back pocket. Try to carry keys, cash, and credit cards separate from each other.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Use a single credit card when possible; it is easier to cancel one card if stolen or lost.
  • Don't overload yourself with packages; this makes it difficult to pay attention to surroundings and defend yourself from mishaps and malicious intent.
  • Note where the closest exits are located. In case of a fire or other emergency, make sure you can find the nearest exits.
  • Avoid secluded stairwells when possible, but remember to use stairs instead of elevators if evacuation is called for.
  • If a mob situation seems to be developing, leave! A few deals are not worth risking your safety.


Restrooms can also be dangerous places due to their concealed nature and distracted awareness of their occupants.

  • Avoid using secluded restrooms when possible. Find a restroom near the mall's food court or other high-traffic area.
  • Observe your restroom surroundings, making note of who is in the restroom, and leave if anything seems suspicious. Report suspicions to security staff.
  • Always accompany your child to the restroom.
  • Keep handbags and shopping bags unreachable from neighboring stalls.

Online Shopping

Online shopping has become a popular alternative to shopping malls and, from a physical security perspective, carries lower risk than shopping centers. Many retailers offer holiday shopping deals on their websites with discount and free shipping incentives. However, with cyber-crime on the rise, online shopping also carries risks to your finances and identity. When shopping online, shop at reputable sites with privacy practices, and beware of suspicious URL links.

About U.S. Security Associates

U.S. Security Associates (USA) is one of North America's largest security companies, with 160 locally-responsive offices providing premier national security services and global consulting and investigations to customers in a range of industries. Recognized for world class customer service, leading-edge technology, and an enterprise approach to risk management, USA offers optimized security solutions to meet specific customer needs. USA is committed to building quality security and risk management programs that are Safe. Secure. Friendly.® The Securing Knowledge series is part of the extensive and growing library of reference and training tools that contribute to USA's award-winning customer service and benchmark security programs. USA's investment in training and development resources is reflected not only by BEST Awards from the American Society for Training & Development, consistent ranking on the Training magazine Top 125, and technology-driven quality management system, but also by the company's leadership team, security officers, and service excellence on a daily basis.

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