Black Friday Safety: Surviving the Madness

If thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks to the positive people in your life, cooperation, and affection; then Black Friday is the complete opposite. Shopping on Black Friday is not safe. I speak from experience. Thinking back, I remember receiving a bloody nose from an enthusiastic elbow, forgetting my wallet in a store, and spending way more than I needed to. If you plan on shopping to your heart's content, or just to get your fix, practice safety first!

Each year, I try to reduce my physical store shopping on this day. You can't get a bloody nose shopping online. My tips for you are things you might be doing on a regular basis, but a little more escalated. Your personal property (such as your wallet or purse) should be kept close to your body at all times. If you keep your wallet in your back pocket, move it to the front pockets or in your jacket. It will be harder for pickpockets to take if they have to frisk you for it. Avoid using big bulky purses. Instead, why not use a fanny pack or backpack? Black Friday isn't a fashion contest; it's all about the deals. Prepare for anything. As if I was going on a road trip, I'd pack first aid, snacks, and fill up my gas tank. Also make sure your cell phones are fully charged and NOT on silent. This is you and your family's first point of contact. Here are some quick tips from the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC):

  • Do not buy more than you can carry:  Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or asking a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car. Asking for help from someone you know or trust is always a good idea.
  • Save all receipts: Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in. This is extra important on this shopping day.
  • Don't flash the cash: Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, including at online stores. I like to select only one or two credit cards to take, and write down the info and leave it at home. If my wallet is lost or stolen, I have all the info I need at home, so I can report them immediately.
  • Wait until asked by a cashier before taking out your credit card or checkbook: An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information. I ignore the stores request to have payment ready at checkout because my personal information is more important to me than shaving seconds on wait time.
  • Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle: Check the back seat and around the car before getting in. I've seen many shady figures lurking in parking lots throughout the years.
  • Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.
  • Do not leave packages visible in your car: Lock them in the trunk, or if possible, take them directly home. I like to check my trunk and clear it out if I know I'm buying a big-box item.
  • If you are shopping with children: make a plan in case you are separated from each other. Select a central meeting place. Teach them to know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help. Have them memorize or keep your cell phone number handy.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a hacker's heaven. Remember the time Target was hacked on Black Friday? The first thing you need to do is make sure your computer is up to date with security software. Your computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware software. It is preferred that you connect to the internet via a wired connection. If using Wi-Fi, make sure it's a connection you are familiar with, and has a secure password that you need to use before connecting. Avoid unsecure connections at all times! The NCPC says:

  • Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to "verify" your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner. I like to prevent my internet browser from remembering my login information. Also, turn off its auto-fill option. Without auto-fill, your browser won't remember the information you enter at checkout. I recommend turning on incognito mode if you use Google Chrome.
  • Beware of "bargains" from companies with whom you are unfamiliar if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • 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.
  • Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company.
  • To avoid purchasing counterfeit products, carefully examine the products you want to buy for signs of missing information (manufacturing information, warranty, product codes, etc.), broken or missing safety seals, different or incomplete packaging, and subtle or obvious changes to a company logo.

There is a lot more you can do, but in order to avoid sounding like a doomsday prepper, I omitted some of the outlandish stuff. Anyway, practice safety first on this "Green Friday". Prepare, stay safe, and lead by example. Who knows, maybe this Black Friday can be an incident free one.. Maybe. I want to hear your Black Friday horror stories! Comment below. 

By: Luis Leonzo