by Kevin Dicciani
Black Friday may seem like a day of bargains to you, a discount-filled romp around malls and retail stores, but underneath all of the slashed-percentage signs and sales tags lurks a day of insidious theft – and it’s only three days away (or two if you’re going to abandon your family on Thanksgiving).
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office released a press release today warning shoppers of the different types of scams that lie ahead, and how you, the consumer, can protect yourself from them. Now, if you have a grain of common sense, these warnings should come as no surprise to you, and neither should the ways you can protect yourself. But, for safety’s sake, I’ll give you a few of their examples of how these thieves can rob you blind for everything you have while you’re checking out that new 12-speed blender.
The parking lot bait and switch
You leave Best Buy empty-handed and depressed because some jerk bought the last few iPads in stock for his 8 kids.
So you wallow and saunter in self-loathing out to the parking garage where you see a man in a suit leaning up against a dusty AMC Pacer. He’s whistling and we all know that anyone who whistles is friendly, so you nod at him. He interprets your nod to be an invitation to a black market deal, and he approaches you with the brightest of smiles.
He holds out a box – just like the boxes iPads come in – and he tells you he felt like hanging around a parking garage to sell the extras because he’s a “good guy.” You shake him off at first but your politeness doesn’t go over well with him. He tells you he’ll sell you one for $100. You’re suspicious. He coaxes you by dropping the price $5. You think of your kid and how much he’s going to cry on Christmas morning. You hand the man $95 bucks.
Do you open the box? No. That would be rude to do in front of the merchant. If it’s a fake, you think, your kid will never know the difference. I mean, he’s only 9, right, you say? He gets in his Pacer and speeds off.
On Christmas morning when your kid opens the box, it’s full of thumb tacks and orange peels.
Don’t park next to a van
While you’re stuffing your car full of presents you notice a white van parked next to you. You’re intuition tells you there’s something off about it, something eerie. Then you see the first season of Swamp Men in one of your bags and you forget about the van. While you’re day-dreaming about noodling catfish, the van door slides open and someone pulls you in and slams the door.
They strip you of your wallet, keys and pants (hey, they’re nice curdoroys) and knock you unconscious. They take all of the presents out of your car and even steal your radio.
Next thing you know, you wake up pantless next to the Chinese Buffet – but luckily, the thieves left you Swamp Men.
Avoid Holiday Screensavers
The next time you’re on the Internet and you consider purchasing a holiday screensaver to express your cheer – please, I beg you, don’t do it. Ole Santy Claus and his parading reindeer are nothing more than puppets, a siren song for the festive fellow who wants to showoff his knack for seasonal cyber-decorations.
The District Attorney’s office gave this warning: “A recent search for a Santa screensaver that promises to let you “fly with Santa in 3D” is malicious. Holiday-themed ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious too.”
To be honest, I didn’t really know you could download screensavers anymore. I thought they disappeared a long time ago along with the floating toaster and dancing Jesus. At first I thought “fly with Santa in 3D” was an LSD reference. Either way, just because I’m ignorant doesn’t mean you should be, so skip-over the cyber-malarky.
“I’m away from home” social media posts
Remember that kid in school who used to always brag about what snacks his mom packed him for lunch? And then when he went to the bathroom, what happened to them? Someone ate them. Yeah, don’t be that kid. The rules apply to social media, too.
You’re going to Jamaica and you can’t contain your joy because the resort you’re staying at brought back the banana boat. On Facebook, you post a picture of your head superimposed on someone else’s body riding a banana boat, and you give away the dates you’ll be away and what airline you’re flying, and exactly how many miles you’re from your house. Then you go on your little vacation.
Now, out of the 857 friends you have on Facebook, the odds are probably like 1-in-6 that one is a criminal. The picture of you on the banana boat is attracting a lot of attention on Facebook and is steadily climbing to the top of the feed. This criminal sees your photo and laughs heartily at your social detachment before he sees that you’re away for a week. He browses through your pictures and notices a flat-screen television – the exact brand he wants, he needs – in the background of a photo from that margarita party you threw at your place. He drives over to your place (your address is on your personal info), waltzes in your place, whistles loudly, and steals your TV.
When you come home your house is completely ransacked. You immediately get on Facebook and display your rage. The criminal ‘likes’ your status and proceeds to watch Dancing with the Stars on his new TV.
Be smart. Don’t accept cheap iPads from strangers, park next to suspicious vans or post your whereabouts on Facebook. Have a great shopping season.