As a continuation of the ghosting topic I discussed earlier, safety should be a concern for con goers.
It’s an unpleasant topic to discuss, and for the most part, most cons are a very safe environment with little worry about personal safety. Having said that, it is important to take practical steps to make sure your con is worry free and you come back with great memories.
It was reported earlier this year that there were assaults/robberies in a couple of the parking garages in Indianapolis. There are no security guards or people watching inside the garages, so if you are going to your car late at night, be aware of your surroundings. If you can get a group to go back to the cars, even better. Be prepared for anything if you are walking alone to a car. Have your cell phone out and keys at the ready, and follow your inner instinct that says beware (don’t ignore that inner voice that says watch out!). Having some mace or pepper spray at hand is a good idea, too. If it looks dicey, turn around and walk out. There are a lot of law enforcement officers out and about at all times in the streets (on bicycles and horses), so help is available if you need it.
ATMs and Credit Cards
ATMs are really convenient, but they are a magnet for criminals to steal your information. Skimming — grabbing your magnetic information and your pin with add on devices — is on the rise, and there have been reports of modified ATMs in hotel lobbies. Criminals put fake slots on the machines, then mount hidden cameras to get your pin when you type it in. It’s really hard to tell if an ATM has been tampered with, frankly, but look to see if the slot fits correctly and isn’t loose or odd looking. If your card doesn’t fit in smoothly, try another ATM. Hide your pin with your other hand when you put in the numbers as they can’t use your info without your pin.
Check your bank balance frequently if you are using ATMs — you can alert your bank to fraud if it occurs.
If you plan on using credit cards at the vendor booths and other places such as restaurants, call your credit card company or bank ahead of time and let them know what you are doing. It can avoid your card being pinged for fraud if they know you are getting charges from stores all over the US and abroad.
Secure Your Valuables
Petty theft of badges, personal items, and money does happen. Keep your stuff close at hand, zip up your bags or backpacks, and keep things out of your pockets if they are easy to get to. Thieves are really clever and can distract you and be off with your stuff before you know it. With 70K attendees and over 200,000 people going in and out, there will inevitably be some bad apples at the con. Just be aware that you can end up being a victim of opportunity if you leave your stuff out and are distracted.
Stay organized! I have terrible trouble with this myself, but making sure you have a spot for your cash, cell phone, identification and credit cards that you can easily get to but is secure. Fumbling around and digging in bags always ends up with items on the floor, and you may not see them fall. Bring a minimum of things to avoid this problem — a bag full of stuff gets disorganized quickly. Use good backbacks or carryalls that have pockets for items so they stay in one spot and you can find them easily.
Keep track of your cash expenditures — it’s not a safety issue but if you are missing some, you will know right away.
Obviously, make sure if you get a wad of cash from the sale of magic cards or games you don’t wave it around. Most of the booths can help you be discreet about it, but be aware there are probably 100 people watching you get the cash.
Don’t leave money, your cell phone or credit cards on the counter while you transact business. Count your change! People make mistakes.
Check your bags before you leave a booth. Do you have all of them? Take an inventory often.
When you are demoing or playing games, put your items in a place where you can keep an eye on them at all times and they aren’t in the open. Wrap bag straps around your chair legs to discourage snatch and grab attempts.
Magic cards are especially vulnerable to theft, since the criminals can just grab your collection and go sell them immediately.
Separating cash into two places, one even in your shoe, can be helpful. You won’t lose it all if something unfortunate happens.
It’s never a bad idea to use a waist pouch that goes under your clothes for your valuable stuff. They sell nice ones fairly inexpensively at places like TJMaxx and other discount stores. It’s a great solution to carry extra cash or an emergency credit card.
Tickets to events should be handled as carefully as cash — since they can be used by anyone.
I don’t know if there would ever be a reason to remove your badge from around your neck, but obviously if you do, keep an eye on it! Badges are going to be a coveted item this year. Badges can fall out of their holders, so a quick check every now and again that it’s still there and secure is a good idea.
GenCon has emergency medical staff available if you feel sick or have a problem. They have a room in one of the hallways. It’s easy to get overheated or stressed in the crowds and all the chaos. If you feel very ill, go see them. Remember to drink and stay hydrated! Bring a water bottle you can refill from a drinking fountain or faucet.
There will be a quiet room this year where attendees can sit and get away from it all for a while (listed in the catalog). Take advantage of it if you can and give yourself a break.
As a final note, just be aware of your surroundings. It’s so easy to get distracted and lose track of your things, allow people to get into your personal space that shouldn’t be there, or find yourself in a situation that you are uncomfortable with. Think ahead, and stay as organized as you can. And of course, have fun!
Do you have other tips? Let us know!