(WSVN) - Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season, and while most people will be searching for deals, there are always those hunting for steals. 7’s Karen Hensel shows us how to stay safe in this special assignment report.

Detective Jody Weymouth, Fort Lauderdale Police: “Left their purse right on the front seat. I got a shopping bag and sneakers, a work ID, some kind of a goody bag.”

Karen Hensel: “Phone charger, sunglasses.”

We walked a mall parking lot with Fort Lauderdale Police detective Jody Weymouth. 

Even on a weekday afternoon, we immediately hit what thieves would consider a jackpot.

Jody Weymouth: “We’ve only been in this parking lot for five minutes. We’ve checked two rows of cars and found at least five potential victims, so it’s like a candy store to a would-be criminal.”

But it’s not just what you leave in plain sight in your car that can make you an easy theft victim. It’s what you do next.

Jody Weymouth: “The problem is somebody that sees you put those items in the trunk, all they have to do is gain access to the car and pull the trunk release. If you know that you’re going to be shopping for a high-dollar item, say, computer equipment or a designer purse, when you buy that item, take it straight home. Don’t put it in the back of your car and go have lunch.”

And sometimes they are just waiting for you. Detective Weymouth says not everyone in the mall is actually shopping. Some are really scoping out their next target.

Jody Weymouth: “Quite often you’ll see people in the mall that are really just pretending to shop, and they know who’s coming out of certain high-end stores, and then they can text their friends that are waiting down in the parking lot or in parking garages: ‘Keep an eye on the lady in the red dress, because she just bought a bunch of high-dollar items.'”

To avoid being a target, be aware of your surroundings. We saw people walking to their cars with their heads down, earbuds in and on their phone.

Karen Hensel: “So what is it that you think we do that makes us victims?”

Jody Weymouth: “I think the number one thing is just assuming that it won’t happen to us.”

It happened last month in Davie when a 70-year-old woman was leaving a Walmart. 

Police say two purse snatchers followed her into the parking lot, and one ripped the wallet from under her arm.

Weymouth has this advice.

Jody Weymouth: “Carry a cross body purse, something small. If you’re going shopping, you really need one credit card. We don’t go anywhere without our phone and our keys. That’s really all you need, so with a cross body bag, your hands free, it’s right in front of you. You’re not worried about holding on to it or setting it down or trying to keep an eye on that bag.”

Karen Hensel: “If you can, park close to the mall entrance, it’s well lit, and if possible, shop with a friend, and always have your keys in hand and ready so you are not distracted, fumbling for them in your purse or pockets.”

And if you’re shopping online this holiday season, you also need to watch out for thieves.

Jody Weymouth: “If you’re shopping online, make sure you’re using reputable sites.”

A few more tips:

  • Check bank and credit card statements regularly.
  • To avoid “phishing” scams do not give personal info if asked via unsolicited calls, texts or emails.
  • Enable mobile phone alerts for purchases, and use multi-factor authentication on accounts that offer it.
  • To avoid porch pirates, track when your packages are going to be delivered, so you or a neighbor can be there to pick them up.

Police say these few simple reminders can keep your holidays merry.


FL Attorney General 2021 Consumer Protection Guide (including product recalls)

FL AG holiday shoping tips

FL’s Check-A-Charisearch tool

FBI info on holiday scas

Federal Trade Commission

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