Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon

This time of year always brings concerns for safety and security. Distractions lingering from the pandemic and the holiday season could make you a prime target for crooks looking to steal your money, your merchandise or even your identity. It’s important to stay alert to protect yourself, your valuables and your personal information.

Here are some easy ways to protect yourself and stay safe as you shop:

  • A single shopper is the best target for theft. Always shop with a friend or relative.
  • Tell someone where you’re shopping and what time to expect you to return. They should also know what you’re wearing and driving.
  • Keep cash in your front pocket rather than in a purse or wallet. This makes it much more difficult for a pick-pocket to remove. Carry car keys in a pants or jacket pocket. If your purse is stolen, you’ll still be able to drive home.
  • If you feel uneasy returning to your vehicle alone, find a security guard and ask them to walk you to your car.

Maybe you’re just trying to make it easier this year and buy gift cards for your loved ones. They have certainly become popular holiday presents in recent years. They’ve also become popular tools for bad guys to take money out of your pockets and bank accounts.

Here are some tried and true ways to protect yourself when buying a gift card for someone on your shopping list.

  • Buy from sources you know and trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because the cards might be counterfeit or might have been obtained fraudulently.
  • Read the fine print before you buy. Is there a fee to buy the card? If you buy a card by phone or online, are there shipping and handling fees? If you don’t like the terms and conditions, buy elsewhere.
  • See if any fees will be deducted from the card after you purchase it.
  • Inspect the card before you buy it. Make sure none of the protective stickers have been removed. See if the codes on the back of the card have been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
  • Give the recipient your original receipt so they can verify the card’s purchase in case it is lost or stolen.

To report any suspicious activity in or around a store, call 911. To report fraudulent financial activity, call the Sheriff’s Department at 803-785-8230.