Be aware while shopping

Published 11:04 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When you were a kid, you probably pretended you were a secret agent at one time or another. In a way, that’s kind of how you have to act when you’re shopping for Christmas gifts.

There are always “enemy agents” out there who are trying to steal your personal information or your purchases. For this reason, you should guard them as if they were top-secret equipment for use on an important mission. And, in a way, they are.

The Alabama Attorney General offers these tips to follow while holiday shopping:

Be aware that thieves may be taking photos of your PIN numbers and account numbers with their cell phone cameras from behind you while you are making purchases.

Keep conversations private and casual in public. You never know who is around you and listening to steal your information.

While shopping online, using “secure” Web sites will help ensure that personal information is transmitted to the merchant safely without being intercepted by a third party. Look for “http” in the Web address or a small padlock at the bottom of the page.

If you must leave valuable items in your car, place them out of sight before reaching your destination or move them inconspicuously. Remember, someone may be watching. A locked trunk is the best place for such items.

When possible, have purchases delivered instead of taking them with you.

When purchasing gifts, be aware of the store’s refund/exchange policy.

Shop with friends or relatives if possible; there is safety in numbers.

If possible, leave your children with a baby-sitter while shopping.

Using a drive-up ATM is usually safer than walking up to an ATM.

Never drive with your purse on the front seat. A crook can break your window and steal it in a matter of seconds.

Be careful of scammers approaching you in parking lots disguising themselves as needy.

Conduct your business during daylight hours if possible. Lock your car while driving.