Tips can help you stay safe this season

No matter what standard you use, let’s agree that the holiday shopping season is officially under way, and that means shoppers must practice common sense and have an awareness of their surroundings as they visit area merchants.

Remember that while it is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, thieves can change that in an instant. They prey on the easy targets. We hope you will keep some simple tips in mind that can help you avoid falling into that group.

One of the most basic safe holiday shopping tips is to avoid carrying large sums of cash. If you do have to carry cash, distribute the amount among several different pockets. Flashing a wad of bills is just asking for trouble.

Keep receipts separate from bags of gifts. Receipts can sometimes contain account information that can be used in identity theft.

Shop in a group. There is always safety in numbers. Also, try to leave the mall or store with a group of people, especially when it is dark.

Shop at malls or stores that you are familiar with and avoid dark hallways or corners.

Bring along a cell phone and make sure it is turned on.

Thieves also target vehicles loaded with holiday gifts.

Clear out all that junk in the trunk to make more room for gifts. Keep all doors locked in the vehicle. Thieves make it a practice to walk through parking lots checking door handles. Don’t store valuable gifts in the backseat in plain view. It is only a temptation. Have vehicle keys in hand and ready to use. Many vehicle keychains have a panic button that will sound the car horn and flash the lights.

Don’t laden yourself with an armful of packages. Ask for help from a store worker or even a security guard when walking to a vehicle in the lot. Park in well-lit areas as close to the store as possible.

If you are doing any of your holiday shopping on the Internet, make sure the sites you visit are secure for credit card purchases.

To help make the holiday shopping season safer, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department will be conducting its annual holiday safety program. Beginning today and running through Dec. 26, the sheriff’s department will be patrolling the areas around the Fort Steuben Mall, Wal-Mart, Tri-State Plaza and Hollywood City Center.

In addition to working to ensure the safety of shoppers, the patrols will be able to assist stranded shoppers with automobile problems and cite those who violate handicapped parking restrictions.

The holiday season is about sharing gifts. Don’t give a thief an easy gift.

Be safe and smart while shopping.