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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also a time when criminals are most active.

A local security expert is, therefore, urging shoppers, particularly senior citizens, to be cautious when they are conducting business and traversing public spaces this festive season.

“Unfortunately, senior citizens can be more vulnerable to crime, including theft or financial scams,” said Hopeton Thomas, security manager at JN Bank. “For most seniors, shopping online might not be the preferred option, as many choose to go shopping in person, which means they need to be extra vigilant.”

If you’ll be out and about this holiday season, here is what you need to know to stay safe as you shop.

Be Aware

Mr Thomas said seniors should ensure that they are always aware of their surroundings. “Put yourself in a position where it’s difficult to surprise you,” he advised. “This is one of the most important things you can do, to ensure your personal safety, particularly, when you are making cash transactions.”

“This means you should avoid accepting help from strangers and also check to ensure that no one is loitering around your car, if you drive” he said.

Mr Thomas also said persons should practice locking their car doors as soon as they are inside.

“If possible, seniors should take along with them a trusted friend or family member when shopping.”

Look out for ‘Shoulder Surfers’

The security expert further cautioned persons to be aware of “shoulder surfing,” when standing in line in crowded supermarkets and stores.

“Shoulder surfers are people who will get access to your personal information, such as your PINs and passwords, by looking over your shoulder while standing behind you in a line. Therefore, I always advise persons to be careful when accessing their online banking information on their phones or any other electronic device, while in public,” he stated.

“The reality is that despite physical distancing protocols, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are those who insist on ignoring the guidelines…some out of habit, others because they have an ulterior motive,” he warned.

Mr Thomas warned that some of these people may be shoulder surfers.

“When you’re in the supermarket, or anywhere else, if you must transfer money or check your balances, do so in a secured spot prior to joining the line. In addition, always protect your PIN by covering the keypad, as you complete your transaction,” Mr Thomas said.

Avoid Walking with Lots of Cash

The security expert also advised senior shoppers to avoid walking around with lots of cash.

“If you must use cash, separate your money early, for example before leaving home or discreetly in the car, before going into a shop, so that you are not forced to be counting money in full view of everyone,” he advised.

Be Cautious When Using ATMs

He noted that seniors should always observe their surroundings prior to using the ATM.

“If the machine is obstructed from view or poorly lit, visit another ATM. Lock the door and always shield the screen and keyboard, so that anyone waiting to use the ATM cannot see as you enter your PIN, or transaction amount,” he advised.

He noted that persons should also secure their cash and card before exiting the ATM.

“You would be surprised to know that there are still persons who count their cash after they move away from the ATM in full view of everyone waiting outside. That is a no-no,” he warned.