Despite Covid-19 having taken its toll on consumer’s pockets, families are definitely out and about at shopping centres again, encouraged by the fact the country is finally in level one of the national state of lockdown.
Charnel Hattingh, Head of Marketing and Communications for Fidelity Services Group, says this rejuvenation of freedom has also attracted criminals to busy shopping environments because they find easy pickings here.
She provides 10 reasons criminals find easy targets at shopping centers:
- There are a lot of people in one area which makes it easy for them to disappear into the crowd once they have stolen your handbag or shoplifted.
- Women with children are often distracted. Turning away from your trolley with your handbag in it for even two seconds is time enough for a criminal to take advantage of.
- Criminals can blend in with other families. Women use children to steal cellphones, handbags and the likes, especially in restaurants where they are “innocently” waiting to be served. After the crime is committed, they simply walk off into the busy crowd and blend in.
- There are many ATM machines. On a busy day nobody wants to hold other customers up if the machine is giving “trouble”. This is when a “Good Samaritan” steps in and offers to “help” – actually helping themselves to your pin and bank card. Before you know it, thousands could be withdrawn from your account.
- Parking areas are large, offering criminals a chance to sit in a car and identify their next target without coming across as suspicious. This could be a woman alone or with children or an elderly person.
- It is easy to sit in a car and remote jam cars. Always check your car is in fact locked before walking away.
- It is easy to follow someone who is going to deposit or withdraw a large amount of money at a bank at a mall without them realising it.
- Shoppers are careless with their valuables – handbags hung over chairs at restaurants, cellphones on the table, etc. A criminal will not hesitate to grab your belongings and be gone in a matter of seconds.
- Most people do not notice what is going on around them. Always take note of your surroundings, especially when you are walking back to your car. Check where the car guard or a security guard is and signal for help immediately if you are suddenly approached by a stranger.
- People are used to being approached by beggars and hawkers. Criminals are masters of disguise and will use any means possible to get what they want. Do not speak to strangers and if anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, go to a security guard and report them.
“With the festive season approaching, shopping centres will be busy regardless of the negative effects of Covid-19 on the economy and consumers’ pockets,” Hattingh says.
“Remain on guard at all times while shopping, be aware of who is around you and especially keep your children and valuables safe.”