On Dec. 10, the Windham, N.H., Police Department posted the following tip on its Facebook page. “A holiday shopping safety tip for women. When using a shopping cart as you browse through the store, keep your purse zipped or closed and secure it to the cart by clipping the child safety belt through the strap(s). This will help in preventing someone from taking advantage of your distraction and running off with the purse. For those carts that don’t have the child strap, keep an inexpensive carabiner clip attached to your purse strap. Simply clip the carabiner to the cart and your purse is more secure. HAPPY SHOPPING!”
The tip got 9.5K shares, more than 1.2K comments, and 4.4K reactions. “I always do this!” wrote a commenter. One revealed how her own purse was stolen: “The scam is now they just get the wallet and leave the purse..they got me yrs ago two women were holding up.clothes and asking questions distraction while their third person took my wallet.” Some favored cross-body purses, which are more securely attached to the person than bags with a shoulder strap.
The advice applies year-round, but it’s especially relevant during the holiday season when people shop more frequently. However, according to Spencer Coursen, a threat management expert and founder of the Coursen Security Group, no matter the time of year, criminals have one goal: easy success.
“Criminals are like lions stalking a gazelle — they go after weak targets,” Coursen tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “So if your purse is on top of your shopping cart or you’re texting or wandering aimlessly around the store, you’re more at risk.”
Purse snatching and pickpocketing are well-honed crafts that take preparation, practice, and often teamwork. One example: The stop-and-bump. “One thief walks in front of the victim and the other behind, forming a sandwich,” says Coursen. “The one in front will suddenly stop, causing his target to crash into him, and the one behind bumps into her, while reaching into the purse.”
You’re less likely to notice you’ve been robbed because thieves don’t need to rummage haphazardly through purses to locate a wallet — you’ve been under surveillance since entering the store. “They know if your wallet is shoved to the left or right inside the bag, or stuffed into a side pocket,” says Coursen.
An easy way to be proactive is to maintain eye contact with anyone that gives you a weird vibe. “Criminals are fundamentally lazy, and they don’t want to work harder than necessary,” says Coursen. “Looking a potential thief in the eye means you’re likely to identify him or her, and you’ll appear more assertive.”
And it’s a myth that robbers only operate in crowded places, says Coursen. “People are usually more vigilant in crowds and let their guards down in less populated areas.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: