Mall safety tips ahead of Black Friday

Black friday advertisement on blackboard. Woman shopping with smart phone app. Online e-commerce shopping concept. Picture: iStock

As South Africans prepare to shop at discounted prices on Black Friday, security experts have warned about criminals who use shopping malls as hunting grounds.

According to Project: Safety and Security typical crimes that shoppers can encounter at a mall include handbag snatching, mobile phone or wallet lifting, armed robbery and even kidnapping.

Below are some of the tips on mall safety:

  • Be aware of your surroundings, this is one of your greatest weapons as distraction is your biggest enemy.
  • Men should carry their wallet in the front pocket of their pants or inside pocket of their jacket.
  • Ensure your children know their full names and address and your mobile number. If they are too young to have the detail memorised, a card should be placed on their person/your number written on their arm with a permanent marker.
  • If possible, tell someone when you go shopping and give an estimated time when you will be back at home. Inform them once you are home from shopping, if you do not clock in within a specified time, they should come looking for you.
  • Park in well lit areas and as close to the entrance door as possible.
  • Do not sit in your car checking messages as you are vulnerable, and your attention is divided.
  • Never leave your valuables in plain sight in your car, put them in the boot or cover them up with a towel or blanket.
  • Manually check that your car doors are locked, car jammers are a reality in SA and although your car might make the locking sound, verify every time.
  • Leave bling handbags at home for when you go on a date.
  • Keep the zip of the bag closed.
  • The sling should be across your body or tied through the trolley handles.
  • Expensive and name brand clothes are usually a sign of wealth and will attract the interest of criminals.
  • Keep your cash in your wallet to the minimum.
  • Your mobile phone and wallet should always be out of sight, but not both in your handbag. Sometimes it is impossible not to keep everything in one bag, but remember that if that bag is stolen, you lose everything.
  • There is safety in numbers, so if you can – take a friend or family member with you, but do not be distracted by them.
  • Be careful when using free WIFI hotspots as those are often used to hack phones and initiate identity theft.
  • Do not entertain friendly strangers or people asking for donations, even if it is for well-known charities. Rather contact the charity from the safety of your home and do an internet transfer.
  • Never carry multiple bags, you become a soft target.
  • Take your parcels to the car regularly and put them in the boot, this will make you less conspicuous and you will be less of a target.
  • If you use an ATM for banking transactions, use the ATM that is in a busy area, even if it is not your bank.
  • Do not accept assistance from any strangers.
  • Put the money that you withdraw away before leaving the ATM.
  • Should you suspect that someone is following you after you withdrew cash, walk into the first store, and observe.
  • Do not carry a lot of cash, rather pay by card, and keep the keypad closed with your free hand.
  • If at all possible leave your child/children with a trusted family member/childminder, at home.
  • Small children should be suitably secured in a stroller and not be allowed to walk on their own in a busy mall.
  • Point out the security guards to your children, instruct them to ask for help from security guards when they need assistance, and you are not available.
  • Never let your children go to the bathroom alone or unattended.
  • Never hesitate to ask a security guard to accompany you to your vehicle should you feel unsafe, or when it is late at night.
  • Carry your keys in your hand ready to unlock when you go into the parking area.
  • When you walk towards your vehicle always look under and around it, to see that everything is as it should be.
  • Do not waste time in the parking area, load your groceries, get in the vehicle and leave.
  • Keep on observing your surroundings and keep an eye out for vehicles that may follow you.
  • Make an unexpected turn to confirm if you are being followed.
  • If you are followed drive to the nearest police station.
  • If you are attacked, make as much noise as you possibly can.
  • Your life is more valuable than the items you own, if your life is endangered, let them take your possessions. Possessions can be replaced.
  • If the attacker is after money, throw your purse/wallet towards them and run in the opposite direction.
  • The best self defence is not to be where the criminal act is taking place.
  • Do not be aggressive.
  • Fight back if you must. If the attacker is trying to cause you harm and you are unable to escape or get help, then self defence could be your best option.

The Citizen