Originally created 12/04/01

Age old question

Q: How can I stay safe when I shop this holiday season?

A: The best protection is awareness.

Keep your eyes and ears open. Look around and keep abreast of your surroundings so you can be aware of any strange or unusual behavior. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, move to another area of the store or find a store employee.

If you carry a pocketbook, place the strap around your neck and under your arm to help prevent robbery. Men should their wallets in a buttoned pocket or inside a shirt or jacket. Carry a whistle or personal alarm to alert others if you are in trouble.

Go shopping during the day. Shopping with a friend or in a group can help provide the greatest measure of personal protection against theft and assault.

Also, remember to wear comfortable, safe clothing when you venture out to the malls this month. Wear shoes with a no-slip sole. Ladies, leave your high heels at home, especially when you are carrying packages, because they can cause a fall. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes that you can spend several hours in without feeling pain.

If you plan to spend several hours shopping, remember to rest periodically. Take a break every hour or so. Drink fluids throughout the day and take a snack. Protecting your health is still a top priority, even when shopping - especially if you are a diabetic or have other medical conditions.

With the Internet, the world is literally at your fingertips. Many people are seasoned Internet shoppers. The rest of us may still feel some uneasiness moving into this area of commerce.

The American Bar Association has compiled a list of helpful hints for those who want to surf the Internet for gifts this holiday season. Familiarizing yourself with these tips can save you from a headache this holiday season, especially if you have little experience with the Internet.

First, trust your instincts when shopping online. If you feel pressured to buy an item, or are uncomfortable with the buying process, go with your gut feeling.

Read all the fine print about shipping, returns, method of payment, refunds and warranties before finalizing your sale. If there is not enough information to satisfy you, contact the seller before completing your purchase.

Before you make a sale final, comparison shop. Beware of prices that seem unreasonably high or unbelievably low. Also, make sure the seller has a privacy policy posted on the Web site. This policy should inform you what information will be gathered about you and how the information will be used.

Another way to protect your personal information is by making sure your Internet connection is secure. Check your software manual to find out which icons indicate a secure connection on your computer.

Use a credit card instead of a check card for a purchase online: Many check cards do not offer protection from fraud. Check with your bank first. For your own protection, print out copies of all documentation of your purchase.

When your package arrives, inspect it carefully. If the product does not meet your expectations or was damaged in shipping, contact the vendor immediately. Write a letter about your concerns and keep a copy for your own records. If you do not get a proper reply, you can issue a complaint to the company or contact the Better Business Bureau or Federal Trade Commission.

If you have a question or would like additional information, please write to Shirley McIntosh, Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Suite 51, Augusta, GA 30909.


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