It’s that time of year again: Consumers are busting down the doors of retail stores everywhere. Unfortunately, the holiday season is the perfect time for criminals to be on the lookout for freebies.
People are indulging in holiday shopping, and it’s not uncommon for the crime rate to increase throughout the season. In preparation for the increase in shoppers and crime in the Northern Virginia area, the Fairfax County Police Department will send out their Retail Anti-Theft teams starting next week.
“Every holiday season FCPD deploys our Retail Anti-Theft teams,” said Lucy Caldwell, public information officer for the department. “These are officers who are assigned specifically to malls and retail outlets throughout our county. Some of these officers are undercover, others are uniformed.”
Every year, these officers arrest dozens of people for crimes ranging from shoplifting to armed robbery and other financial scams, Caldwell explained. In the past few years, FCPD has seen an increase in thieves using stolen credit cards and fraudulent I.D. Caldwell said the department currently has officers in training for deployment of teams next week.
“Our goal is to continue to keep Fairfax County a safe place to enjoy the holiday season, while people shop, dine and celebrate the festive season,” Caldwell said.
While shopping, you can make an effort to protect your family and your purchased items. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests having a personal safety plan for Black Friday shopping:
- Don’t buy more items than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend or ask a store employee to help carry your packages to the car.
- Shop online with companies you know and trust. Check a company’s background if you are not familiar with it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- 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.
- Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as one-time or multi-use disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.
- Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to “shoulder surf” to get your account information.
- Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
- 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 in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
- Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.
- If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you get separated. Select a central meeting place and make sure they know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.
FCPD will also conduct an online chat at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, in an effort to answer residents' questions and address their concerns. Questions can be submitted here.
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