Avoid pickpockets and thieves in busy shops

With stores slashing the prices of their Christmas goods and the January sales in full swing, many of us will be braving the crowds and heading to the high street or retail park at least once during the next few weeks.

But busy shopping periods bring with them an increased risk of crime and other misfortune. 

So how can you ensure you stay safe when you’re out buying during the festive season?

Shoppers warned to be vigilant in supermarket car parks.

1. Keep your valuables safe…

Crowded stores make it easier for thieves to pick pockets or steal from unattended bags. Make sure your cash, cards and keys are kept safe in a zipped or inside pocket, or in a zipped compartment of a bag.

And don’t take more cards or personal documents with you than you need to – so if your wallet or purse does go missing, your losses are kept to a minimum.

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2. …and keep an eye on bags

Be vigilant when browsing or using changing rooms: don’t leave bags of items that you have already paid for unattended – opportunist thefts can be just as common as pickpocketing.

Five ways to avoid being scammed at the cash machine.

3. Choose your shopping time wisely

Try to visit stores when they are less likely to be busy – that is, not the two or three days before Christmas, or as soon as the sales start on Boxing Day. 

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You might miss out on a bargain or two, but you will probably have a much safer – and more relaxed – shopping experience.

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4. Take care when you pay

Paying for your purchases with a card can be more convenient than using notes and coins. But be cautious when entering your Pin number – make sure no one behind you can see what your code is.

Also, given the higher risk of being pickpocketed when shops are busy, make sure you don’t keep a note of your Pin in your wallet or purse.

If you are using cash, check any notes you receive as change to make sure they aren’t counterfeit. Busy periods can make it easier for criminals to spend fake notes.

Read our guide to getting refunds on unwanted Christmas gifts.

5. Make your home look occupied

With the days at their shortest in December, make sure you leave lights on at home if you are going to be out shopping past dusk. Burglars may look for signs that people are spending Christmas away from home.

For more useful tips and information, browse our money articles.

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