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Auto Club Offers Tips To Avoid Prevent Crashes And Crimes While Holiday Shopping

Busy parking lot by Auto Club
Photo credit: Auto Club of Southern California

Editors: B-roll of common parking lot safety situations is available for your use. 

The Automobile Club of Southern California is reminding holiday shoppers to protect themselves from hazards and crime while buying presents online or at their local shopping centers.

The major risk to online shoppers is identity theft. Holiday shoppers heading out to malls and stores should take precautions in parking lots to avoid crashes, crimes of opportunity and accidentally getting locked out of vehicles.

“Stay focused, pay attention and be aware of all the hazards in crowded parking lots this holiday season, and also protect yourself from ID theft while shopping online,” said Doug Shupe, the Auto Club’s Corporate Communications Manager. “A moment of poor judgement by shoppers in a rush can lead to unfortunate situations during what should be a festive time of year.”

An estimated 20 percent of all collisions occur in parking lots and often result in expensive insurance claims for vehicle damage or even injuries if a driver strikes a pedestrian. Distractions lead to most crashes— passengers, phones, the radio, or simply having tunnel vision looking for a parking spot.

To avoid a parking lot collision, the Auto Club advises drivers to:

  • Be aware of the hazards around you in a parking lot, including pedestrians and moving vehicles.
  • Don’t Drive Intexticated. While searching for a parking spot, don’t make phone calls, read or send texts and emails, use social media or take photos or videos.
  • Drive slowly and obey all traffic and directional signs.
  • Avoid shortcuts such as cutting across parking lanes and rows of parking spots.
  • Watch for pedestrians and other vehicles when slowly backing up.  
  • Be extra alert for small children, pets, and parents pushing baby strollers in parking lots.
  • Turn on your headlights, even in the daylight and especially when driving through dark parking garages.


To avoid being locked out of vehicles, drivers should:                  

  • Never leave car keys or key fob inside the vehicle’s passenger compartment, even when helping a passenger or child into the vehicle.
  • Stay focused. Don’t become distracted while getting in or out of your vehicle in the parking lot.
  • Exit your vehicle with your car keys or key fob in hand and use the key fob security system to lock doors.
  • Place car keys or key fob in your pocket or purse when stowing or unloading packages in the trunk.
  • Always double-check you have keys in your hand, pocket or purse before exiting vehicle or before closing the trunk.  


To prevent auto crimes of opportunity this season, vehicle owners should:

  • Always lock your vehicle with the windows closed. Even if you park your vehicle in a garage, this simple measure is added security.
  • Never leave belongings or purchases visible in your car since they could tempt thieves. Even empty shopping bags, sunglasses, coins or a change of clothes might look interesting to a thief.
  • Never leave your keys in your vehicle or leave your vehicle running any time you are not in it.
  • Park in populated, well-lit areas.
  • Never hide a spare ignition key on the vehicle. Thieves look for keys in popular hiding places like inside a car bumper or wheel well.
  • Store your key fobs in a metal container when at home. The metal provides a barrier that interrupts radio signals to/from the smart fob preventing potential hackers from opening your vehicle.


Online holiday shoppers need to be especially cautious in California, which has the third largest number of reported identity theft incidents in the US, according to the Federal Trade Commission. An ID theft is committed every two seconds, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

To prevent theft of your credit card or other personal information during the holidays, the Auto Club recommends:

  • Stick to familiar websites that you know are secure. Don’t use a new website to buy something before checking consumer reviews, and make sure it offers a secure web page for credit card transactions.
  • Get alerts of possible ID theft by enrolling in a credit monitoring service such as the Auto Club’s ProtectMyID ®  program, available free to members. Members can also choose additional protection for a cost with the Deluxe or Platinum ProtectMyID ®  programs. Visit to learn more.
  • Beware of fake gift cards offered through websites or third parties. Buy gift cards directly from the retailer. When buying a card from a kiosk in a store, ask the clerk to check the card and activate it before you buy. Scammers have been known to tamper with cards and then put them back on shelves.
  • Be wary of who you accept an e-card from. Cyber criminals can load e-card links or attachments with viruses and malware that download to your computer once you click on the e-card.
  • Be sure the charity you’re donating to is legitimate. Never give in response to an email solicitation or phone call. Instead, identify a charity you want to support, research it thoroughly and donate securely, either through snail mail or the charity’s own secure website.
  • Don’t shop online or access/type personal data while using an unsecured wi-fi connection in a public place or on a public computer. Hackers may be able to steal that information. Consider getting a personal wi-fi hotspot if you use your phone frequently in public for financial transactions.
  • Keep your smartphone in a secure place at all times, and use a passcode lock feature if it has one. Thieves can access personal data by stealing an unsecured cell phone.

Media Contacts

Doug Shupe
LA-based media contact
(512) 659-1632

Anlleyn Venegas
Public Affairs Specialist. English/Spanish Language Media Spokesperson
(619) 565-4556

CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.